The team entered Monday’s contest ranked sixth in the NHL in penalties drawn (122) and yet owned a lowly 18 percent success rate in man-advantage situations (18th in the league). That stat was even worse on the road, where the Avs have spent the majority of their games to date. The squad had only recorded seven markers on 66 attempts for a 10.6 percent conversion away from Pepsi Center.
In fact, Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy had even criticized the area of play, saying it stifled momentum in the team’s 7-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 21.
The tides may have started to turn however, as the Avs struck not once, not twice, not even thrice but four times while up a player on Monday in San Jose. It was the first time Colorado has scored four power-play goals in a single game since Oct. 13, 2011 at the Ottawa Senators, and it flat out powered the Avalanche to a 6-3 victory over the Sharks at SAP Center.
“I think it might have been the best I’ve ever seen with me standing in net,” netminder Calvin Pickard said of the power-play phenomenon. “It was fun to watch. There were some tic-tac-toe plays. It was a tough few goals for their goalie. There was nothing he could do on them. We definitely earned those power-play goals, and it definitely earned us the game.”
According to TSN, the four special-teams tallies tied the most in any NHL game this season, a feat Toronto achieved at home against the Avs on Nov. 17. Also, it wasn’t exactly an easy accomplishment for Colorado, despite how it appeared.
San Jose entered Monday ranked sixth in the league on the penalty kill, knocking off 83.7 percent of opposing attempts. Unfortunately for the club, its success at home has been another story. The Sharks ranked 21st in the league with a 78.1 percent conversion, and that number will fall as the Avs went 4-for-6 on the man-advantage.
“The key for us was our power play. Special teams were really good. Our power play [was] 4-for-6. Our PK [was] 3-for-3. That’s what you’d like to see on the road,” Roy said. “It was a big win for us. Everybody played really well.
“What I liked is we set up on both sides. It’s a lot to tougher to defend. They were nice goals.”
Colorado’s win in San Jose was its first since Feb. 6, 2008, and it was bolstered by a fantastic night from Nathan MacKinnon and strong goaltending from Pickard, who was called up on Christmas Day to fill in for Reto Berra, who injured his ankle on Dec. 21.
The game was Pickard’s third in the NHL this season, but it was just his first start between the pipes. It would also go down as his first decision, a win in which he finished with 35 saves and a .921 save percentage.
“It was a huge win for us, back-to-back with travel,” Pickard said. “It’s nice when the boys score six goals for you. We battled all the way through, had a couple big penalty kills and our power play was unbelievable, making some unreal plays. It’s a big two points for us in this building.”
“Calvin made some great saves early in the game, kept us in the game and helped us to play with the lead, basically,” Roy said of the 23-year-old keeper. “We have a lot of confidence in him. Last year, he played really well for us. I was very confident he’d offer a good performance, and that’s exactly what he did. He’s a fighter out there. He battles hard and he never quits, and he made some very good saves, especially early in the game.”
Pickard faced a quick number of shots to start the match, no doubt acclimating him to the pace of the game faster than he would have liked. Regardless, the swift barrage merely helped him tune in and lock down for the duration.
“It was nice to have those first few touches. They weren’t huge chances. It was good to get a few puck touches there early,” Pickard said. “They got that one right after we scored, but we stuck with it. They were shooting pucks from everywhere, so I got to feel it pretty good tonight. I can’t say enough with the efforts right around our crease. Sticks tied up, blocked shots; it was huge tonight.”
Pickard improved to 7-7-3 in NHL play.
MacKinnon kicked off the scoring for the Avs, potting his first of three markers just 8:46 into the opening period while with the extra attacker. The tally was his first in 15 games. Patrick Marleau countered 1:21 later to keep it close, but Colorado pulled away with another first-frame power-play goal from Carl Soderberg.
The Avalanche went on to score four of the next six tallies, including two more on man-advantage chances—recorded by Blake Comeau and MacKinnon—and one into the empty net.
MacKinnon’s final two markers helped the 20-year-old to the second hat trick of his career, and the first for the Avs since he did it last season on Feb. 22 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He became the third youngest player (20 years, 119 days old) in franchise history to register a three-goal effort on the road, according to TSN.
Soderberg (one goal, two assists) and Alex Tanguay (two assists) both had multi-point nights, and Soderberg earned first star of the game honors with his hard work. The Swede recently had Gabriel Landeskog added to his line pairing with Comeau, and the adjustment certainly seemed to help his play.
“It’s a little bit different. Gabe is still physical, like [Andreas Martinsen], but he holds onto the puck a little bit more and likes to do some plays too,” Soderberg said. “I think we moved the puck well on the power play. We have a couple of new power-play lines, and it’s worked well so far.”
Soderberg’s performance was specifically highlighted by Roy after the win.
“I thought Soderberg [had] probably his best game since he joined the team,” Roy said. “He was phenomenal, sharp on the power play, made good plays. He was really good on 5-on-5 in our end. I thought with Landy and Blake, they had a strong game for us.”
Colorado’s first-period goal marked the 10th consecutive time the Avs have scored first this season. The club has outscored the opposition 14-5 in the first period over this 10-game stretch and has tallied first in 25 of 37 matches this year.
With his second-stanza marker, Matt Duchene (143) passed Dale Hunter (142) for sole possession of 10th place on the franchise’s all-time goals list.
“We [wanted] to come away with three of four on a back-to-back, points wise,” Duchene said. “We’re creeping up on Nashville, and we want to get in a playoff spot as soon as possible and never look back.”
LANDESKOG THE WARRIOR
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog probably doesn’t like playing at the Shark Tank very much. For the second time in his career, he was injured during a game in the building. This time the wound came in the second period after a slap shot from San Jose defenseman Dylan DeMelo hit Landeskog in the face.
DeMelo immediately went to Landeskog to help him up and over to Colorado’s head athletic trainer, Matt Sokolowski, for repairs.
Landeskog returned to the game in the third period and finished the night with 15:06 of ice time.
The 23-year-old Swede previously suffered a head injury in San Jose on Jan. 26, 2013.