It's a risk for D-men to leave the blue line uncovered, especially in a tie game as a breakaway or odd-man rush can quickly develop the other way while out of position. However, the reward of scoring can make the gamble worth it.
That risk paid off big time Saturday night for Zach Redmond and the Colorado Avalanche.
Less than four minutes after Colorado tied the game at 3-3, Redmond snuck from his spot at the point to the low right circle, received a perfect pass from Jarome Iginla and fired a shot past the glove of goalie Cam Ward and into the back of the net. It was the third unanswered goal for the Avs, and all the team needed to hold off the Carolina Hurricanes in a dramatic 4-3 victory at Pepsi Center.
"Down low it's hard for a forward to pick up a D-man back door, and Iggy made a perfect pass to me," Redmond said of his goal with 1:35 left in the third period. "He couldn't have put it on my tape any better."
It was the second of a career-high two-goal night for the 26-year-old, and the first game-winner of his young NHL career.
His initial tally of the game helped lessen the blow the Avalanche received in the first period, going down 2-0 in the first 5:10. The Traverse City, Mich., native received a pass from Tomas Vincour at the right circle and threw the puck toward the net. The puck then caromed off a Carolina player's skate and past the goal line at 10:52 to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Redmond also saw 4:01 of power-play time in the contest, helping guard and quarterbacking one of the points during the Avs' four man-advantage opportunities.
Being on the ice during power plays isn't a situation he is used to this season, but head coach Patrick Roy is giving him a chance to show what he can do with it.
"Taking advantage of his opportunity," Roy said of Redmond. "Just like [Nick] Holden did last year. Jumped into the play, scored two goals tonight."
Redmond has the same mindset.
"I'm hoping to take these opportunities and run with them and go from there," he said.
PICKARD PICKS UP FIRST WIN
It wasn't how goaltender Calvin Pickard dreamed he would get his first NHL victory, but he'll certainly take it.
Pickard stopped all 17 shots he faced and earned win No. 1 of his NHL career on Saturday night. He entered the game at 16:50 of the first period in relief of Reto Berra, becoming the second goaltender in franchise history to earn his first career win in relief. Quebec’s Brian Ford also accomplished the feat on Dec. 27, 1983 vs. Hartford.
"It's definitely a dream that it happened," Pickard said of his first NHL win. "It was an unbelievable game. Right from when I got in there, our team turned it around really good. Credit to them. They stuck with it. They played so well in front of me, and we deserved that result in the end."
His best stop—and maybe the save of the year for Colorado—came at an important junction for the team. With the Avalanche down 3-1, Pickard stopped Alexander Semin's rebound shot that was heading toward the goal line with a diving glove save, then batted away the flying puck with his stick at 5:20 of the second frame.
"I think there was a little bit of luck involved," Pickard said. "It went through my five-hole, went off the post there, and I just seemed to be twisted around and he was right there and I was able to get the glove out. I definitely got pretty lucky there."
The save ended up being a turning point as Erik Johnson scored five minutes later to cut the Avalanche deficit to one goal.
"Calvin made a phenomenal save there, and it kept the game at 3-1 at that moment," Roy said. "There are key moments in games, and that was one of them."
NEW GUYS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Not much went right for the Avalanche in the first period, but one bright spot was the recent call-ups from Lake Erie.
Andrew Agozzino, Ben Street and Tomas Vincour made their season debuts for Colorado after being recalled on Friday, and provided what the team needed when down 2-0: energy and a goal.
"These three guys I thought played a good game for us," Roy said. "They gave their energy in the first period, and I thought they had some great moments."
The line helped create the Avs' first goal after Agozzino just missed on a hip in front and Vincour fed the puck to the left circle for Redmond, who scored on a redirected shot.
It was Agozzino's first career NHL game and not a bad one to play in, picking up a key assist in a comeback victory for the team.
"It was unbelievable. To have that start, getting an assist early in the game was an unbelievable feeling," Agozzino said. "The way we came back in the second and third period, I think, I can't really describe it. It was unbelievable."
The only downside of the night for the line came in the third period when Vincour left the game with a foot injury. Roy said afterward that Vincour was getting x-rays and that team would know more on Sunday.
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
•The Avs have won 10 straight home games over the Hurricanes and are 10-0-2 (10 wins, two ties) in their last 12 home matchups versus Carolina…The last time the Hurricanes beat the Avalanche in Denver they were still the Hartford Whalers, Feb. 9, 1996 at McNichols Sports Arena (3-2)…Colorado is 9-0-0 all-time versus Carolina at Pepsi Center.
•Nathan MacKinnon tallied a career-high three assists tonight…The three points matched his career best for points in a single game (Feb. 1, 2014 vs. Buffalo).
•With a goal and an assist tonight, Jarome Iginla moved into a tie with Sergei Fedorov for 48th place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,179 career points.
MOST POINTS, ALL-TIME (No. 46-50)
46. Dino Ciccarelli 1200
47. Rod Brind’Amour 1184
48. Sergei Fedorov 1179
Jarome Iginla 1179
50. Bobby Hull 1170
•Tomas Vincour became the first player in Avalanche/Nordiques franchise history to wear #81 when he made his season debut tonight…Vincour wore #24 in his previous stint with the Avs in 2012-13.
•Vincour’s assist tonight marked his first point in the NHL since April 26, 2013 at Phoenix.
•John-Michael Liles scored his first goal of the season for the Hurricanes…It was Liles’ 35th career goal here at Pepsi Center, second to only Hall-of-Famer Rob Blake (40) for the most goals by a defenseman in this building.
•Tonight wrapped up a stretch of seven consecutive games versus Eastern Conference opponents (Avs finished 4-3-0)…Colorado has already played 13 (or 41%) of its 32 ‘non-conference’ games this season.