Colorado Avalanche netminder Spencer Martin is getting NHL experience in a trial-by-fire kind of setting.
The 21-year-old received his first start at the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 21, where he turned aside 27 of the 30 shots he faced from the Stanley Cup runners up. Martin then got a chance to face the same team again just two days later, where he stopped 21 of 26 pucks sent his direction.
The Avs were in the midst of a four-game losing streak at the time, and Martin was tasked with supporting Colorado while regular starter Semyon Varlamov was out with a lingering groin injury.
Video: Condensed Game: Avalanche @ Kings
Fast forward to his third start between the pipes on Wednesday: Varlamov is now done for the season after hip surgery and the Avalanche is winless in its last eight contests. Taking on a Los Angeles Kings club looking to battle beyond its current wild-card berth, Colorado knew the game wasn't going to be easy.
The match certainly didn't start the way the squad wanted, with Los Angeles tallying a mere 47 seconds into the contest, and it didn't end the way the players wanted as the Kings skated away with a 5-0 victory.
"That's got to be a focus as a goalie, to make the first couple saves, get the team started and try to be the team to score first," Martin said after the loss. "Obviously disappointed they got goals early. That's something I've got to learn from, but I felt like as a team we dug in and tried to make a game of it in the second and unfortunately got a little unlucky in the third."
Yet as bad as the result looks, it could have been much worse without the effort of the rookie goaltender. Martin made eight saves in the first frame before going a perfect 16-for-16 in the middle stanza. The Oakville, Ontario, native then stopped another 11 pucks in the third period, doing his best to survive a 64-attempt onslaught.
"It's pretty disappointing letting in three goals early like that," said Martin. "I try to take something from every game and from this game, I felt like overall I was able to put it behind me and play better in the second."
While Colorado's offense failed to generate anything the other way, Martin had to hold his own against everything Los Angeles threw at him.
"In the first period, what they did is they threw everything at the net and got their big bodies down there and banged away. We didn't do a good enough job of sealing them out and making sure we got on their sticks and keeping them off the net," head coach Jared Bednar said. "We did have some good looks for a stretch. For about a 15-minute stretch we started generating a little bit. Even had a stretch going in the second period where we did some good things offensively. I thought [Peter] Budaj was good though. They did a good job of keeping us off the net and making sure we didn't get the traffic or screens we needed."
The game was certainly another learning experience for the young keeper, and he won't get much of a breather moving forward, either.
Having played the fewest games in the league before the All-Star break, Colorado's schedule is nothing if not hectic from here until the end of the year. The Avs have 34 games in the next 67 days, a breakneck speed that will require both netminders to be ready to go.
Calvin Pickard is expected to carry most of the load down the stretch, but Martin will certainly see more game action as the Avalanche plays nearly every other day until the final buzzer on April 9.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar's perfect record when challenging plays has come to an end. Bednar entered Wednesday's contest 3-for-3 when looking for a change on the ice, but officials in Los Angeles ruled against him during the second period of the loss.
Jarome Iginla appeared to have scored Colorado's first goal of the night 5:17 into the middle stanza, but the play was waved off due to perceived goaltender interference on Kings keeper Peter Budaj. Upon further review, it was determined that Avs forward Blake Comeau made enough contact to hinder Budaj's secondary save attempt on the play. The call on the ice was upheld and the Avs were charged their timeout.
Bednar's first challenge came on Oct. 17 in Pittsburgh in the Avalanche's second game and first on the road. Goaltender Calvin Pickard claimed he was interfered with by Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin and video review confirmed as much. The goal was overturned.
The second came on Oct. 22 at the Florida Panthers. Bednar told the officiating staff that he wanted a second look before the crowd was halfway through cheering, and the play was rescinded due to an errant player who was offside.
The third victory in the challenge department came in the second period of Colorado's game at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 21. Boone Jenner looked to get the 2-2 equalizer on a shot from the faceoff circle, but replay revealed that Scott Hartnell had made contact with Seymon Varlamov prior to the arrival of the puck. The marker was called back.
RENE BOURQUE INJURED
Just two games removed from a lower-body injury that held him out of Colorado's lineup for four games, Avs forward Rene Bourque left Wednesday's match in the first period after a high hit from Kings blueliner Brayden McNabb.
Bourque played just 23 seconds before the hit, which prompted John Mitchell to initiate a fight with McNabb as a sign of the Avalanche's disapproval of the play.
Bourque did not return.
HOCKEY IS FOR EVERYONE
The NHL, NHLPA and all 30 clubs have partnered for 28 days of activities as part of the league's Hockey Is For Everyone initiative, the NHL announced today. Events will focus on raising awareness on areas such as LGBTQ; ethnicity and gender equality; socio-economic status and on those with disabilities.
"Our Clubs, our players and our fans are committed to welcoming everyone to hockey," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a release. "While the NHL family strives for diversity and inclusiveness all year long, February is Hockey Is For Everyone month, which will highlight, on a daily basis, the many ways our sport brings greater attention, heightened awareness and broader opportunities."
Stay tuned to ColoradoAvalanche.com for more information on the team's efforts for Hockey Is For Everyone month.