Goaltender Semyon Varlamov didn't quite steal the game for the Colorado Avalanche, but he was the difference maker that the team needed.
Varlamov made a career-high 57 saves on Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes and received goal support from his teammates to help the Avalanche to a 5-3 victory at Pepsi Center. It was the club's second win in a row and came after having four days between outings.
"Tough game, but I'm happy with the result," Varlamov said. "I'm happy to see the guys scoring goals. When you score five goals, you can give up three and then it's easy to play that way."
The start of Thursday's contest was anything but ideal for the Samara, Russia, native, as Carolina's Victor Rask scored from a tough-angle shot at the goal line just 55 seconds after the opening faceoff. Yet, Varlamov wasn't rattled.
The keeper refocused and got ready for the next shot--the next 21 to be exact--and ended up being the reason why the game was tied at 2-2 at the first intermission.
Colorado then gave its netminder a cushion on the scoreboard in the second frame, scoring three times in a matter of 3:23 before a defensively-solid third period.
"We started pretty slow in this game, but we bounced back in the second," Varlamov said. "We scored some nice goals. It's always easy to play with the lead. The team is scoring five, you lead the game going into the third, you're playing with confidence."
Confident is an adjective to describe Varlamov's play, and Avs head coach Jared Bednar had several others to add after the contest.
"Phenomenal," Bednar said. "Phenomenal from start to finish. I thought he was obviously the difference in the hockey game, and for him, it was his [first] game since his outing in Vegas. I think there was a little added motivation. I don't think he liked the way he played that game. Tonight, he was exceptional. What more can you say? He was phenomenal."
That previous contest Bednar referred to was last Friday when Varlamov made only 14 saves in a 7-0 loss at the Vegas Golden Knights. The defeat to the NHL's newest team was anything but Varlamov's fault, but the goaltender still wanted to have a good follow-up outing.
And he did.
"It was a really tough game mentally," Varlamov recalled of the contest versus the Knights. "I thought I had a good start to the game, and then everything collapsed in the second period. It is what it is. It's the NHL. There are no easy games. If you had a bad game, the next night you have to bounce back. You have to forget about it and just keep going.
"We had four days off for this game and had a couple practices. We worked a lot with the goalie coach on things that we wanted to improve."
Video: Varlamov talks about making 57 saves
The Avalanche was prepared to face a lot of shots entering the matchup, but the Hurricanes' 60 shots against ended up being the most the team has surrendered since moving to Denver. Carolina is one of the top teams in the league for shots on goal and was averaging 33.6 per game prior to puck drop.
Despite there being a lot of rubber coming his way, Varlamov saw most of it.
"I always tell them that the most important thing for me is to see the shots, especially from the goal line," the goalie said of his communication with his teammates. "We knew Carolina was shooting from everywhere, so we saw that today. That was the key today, to see most of the shots."
While facing 60 shots is a ridiculous amount for a goalie, Bednar wasn't too displeased by the volume of shots. The coach agreed with his goalie's assessment that the defense did a good job of allowing him to make the save.
What Bednar didn't like was how many pucks came from the high-scoring areas of the ice.
"They're a team, and I noticed tonight, they're throwing it on net from everywhere. But, we gave up way too many from the interior of the ice," Bednar said. "They were breaking down our coverage and low to high plays. Their D, they have some skilled guys back there that can shoot, and they're getting their shots through. Part of our game I didn't like. I didn't like our D-zone coverage at all."
Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference
Despite some breakdowns, Varlamov was solid between the pipes and said he felt pretty good physically after the contest.
"I feel not bad, actually," he said. "Sometimes you're facing 30 shots, and you're exhausted after the game. You never know how your body will react. Today I felt not bad."
Varlamov's previous career high for saves in a game was 54 that he set on Jan. 6, 2015 at the Chicago Blackhawks, which was also an Avalanche record. His 57-stop performance Thursday set new marks and was the most in a home game in Avalanche/Nordiques history.
The franchise record is still safe from being eclipsed. That is held by Ron Tugnutt, who had 70 saves for the Quebec Nordiques in a game against the Boston Bruins on March 21, 1991.
BARRIE'S HOME COOKING
Colorado's victory on Thursday improved the team's record to 7-5-0 overall and 5-1-0 at home this season.
Defenseman Tyson Barrie has been a big part to the team's success at Pepsi Center, as he has recorded a point in all six home contests this season (one goal and five assists).
On the year, Barrie is tied for second on the Avs in scoring and 10th among NHL D-men with 10 points (three goals and seven assists) after 12 games. Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues leads all league rear guards with 13 points (four goals and nine assists).
Defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Chris Bigras were the Avalanche's only healthy scratches on Thursday. Zadorov missed his third-straight game while Bigras watched for a second consecutive contest.
The only change the Avs made to their lineup from the club's win on Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks was in goal, where Semyon Varlamov started in replace of Jonathan Bernier.
Colorado has four players on injured reserve: forwards Gabriel Bourque (upper body), J.T. Compher (broken thumb), Tyson Jost (lower body) and Colin Wilson (hip). All of them have skated over the last two days in red, non-contact jerseys, but there still isn't a definite timetable on when any of them will return to game action.