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The Fathers and the Son Line Produces in Tampa

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy has reconfigured his lines a few times over the past week. Mixing and matching, experimenting with different pairings to see if any of the trios can connect offensively.

Heading into Thursday's matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he went with what he knew worked, putting wingers Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay together. The forwards were members of the Calgary Flames for years, and the duo were linemates with one another for much of it.

With that historic chemistry already there, Roy then added a young thoroughbred forward up the middle in 20-year-old center Nathan MacKinnon.

So far, the early results of the combo have been very positive.

The line produced both goals as Tanguay and MacKinnon each scored, and the Avalanche ended a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay. Each player finished the night with two points, and Iginla led the Avs with six shots while MacKinnon was close behind with five.

"They were really sharp. They clicked really well," Roy said after the game. "I knew Alex and Jarome always play well together, even in those days in Calgary, but Mac's been really good. He skates well. He competes well, protects the puck well offensively. He's fun to watch."

With the combination of patience and knowledge from the 38-year-old Iginla and the 35-year-old Tanguay's years spent in the NHL, and the quick feet and shot of MacKinnon, the chemistry of the line ended up working perfectly against the Lightning.

"I thought we had a good forecheck," Iginla said. "I thought MacKinnon was really holding the puck. Tangs, when he gets the puck and crosses the blue line, if he has any kind of time, you just get open and he'll make plays. I thought with MacKinnon's speed, and Tangs was flying, that we were able to get some 2-on-1s, and the D was getting it up [the ice]. It felt like we had some confidence tonight, and we were making plays."

Playing with players that are old enough to be his father wasn't lost on MacKinnon either.

"I call them my dads. They are 35 and 38. They are both (nearly) double my age so it's funny that way," said MacKinnon, referencing the age difference. "It's great to play with them. They have some chemistry. They played in Calgary a long time together. I just got to bring something to that line."

Said Tanguay of the youngest member of the group: "As long as the son keeps skating, we'll be fine."

The line opened the scoring with 4:03 left in the first period when Tanguay picked up his first goal of the season. He redirected a shot from Iginla in front of the crease, and the puck trickled between Ben Bishop's pads and across the goal line.

The referee closest to the net originally ruled it no goal, but after the league reviewed the play, it was clear that the puck completely crossed the red line before the official intended to blow his whistle.

"Nate dumped the puck in the corner and we both drove the net," Tanguay recalled. "When I skated by, I knew it was behind him. I didn't know if it was all the way across, but I had a pretty good [idea]. I had seen a lot of the puck was past that red line. I was hoping for good news and that is what we got."

Colorado made it 2-0 at 13:04 of the second stanza after the line stayed with the puck and scored off a rebound.

On a 2-on-1, Tanguay fed Iginla in front but Bishop stopped the ensuing shot. However, Iginla got another chance at the puck as he banged the rebound off the inside of the 6-foot-7 goalie's left leg, allowing the trailing MacKinnon to knock in his fourth tally of the year.

With his two helpers, Iginla passed Phil Housley for 38th place on the NHL's all-time points list with 1,232. This milestone came a game after Iginla became the 35th player ever to appear in 1,400 NHL contests.

Both goals were the result of hard work and what Roy has been saying for much of the season: shoot the puck, get to the front of the net and good things can happen.

"Some good breaks, but it is fun playing with both those guys," Iginla said of his linemates. "They can make a lot of things happen."

If the line keeps producing like it did on Thursday, Roy will have a tough time breaking it up.

STRONG OUTING FOR VARLY

Semyon Varlamov looked liked his old self as he made 34 saves and got his second victory of the season.

Varlamov was good early, in the middle and late in the game, and the only shot that got past him was on a rebound in front by Alex Killorn during a Lightning power play with 4:14 left in the second period to make it a 2-1 game.

The Colorado netminder shut the door after that, which included denying 13 shots in the final frame.

"He made some huge saves. Ones that I'm not sure on TV you catch those subtle tips in front there," Iginla said of his goalie. "Some big ones in the third. Also that 5-on-3 and the follow up. We don't want those breakdowns.

"Those were the key saves, but he made a lot of them tonight."

Varlamov's best stops might have been when the Avs were on the power play, as he made saves on two Lightning breakaways during the contest.

"Varly was phenomenal in net for us," Roy said. "He played really well. He had a strong night, from the start to the end. Just feel that we gave them too many breakaways. That is something I would like to see us [fix], especially on our power play."

Varlamov will be back in the crease on Friday night as Roy said he'll make the start against the Carolina Hurricanes in the final stop of Colorado's three-game road trip.

"I'm going to use him tomorrow. No doubt about it," Roy said. "He played well tonight, and we want him in tomorrow. He's an important player on this club, and tomorrow is a good chance to win two out of three of the trip."

The victory for Varlamov was his 108th as a member of the Avalanche and moves him past Dan Bouchard for second place on the franchise's all-time wins list.

OFF TO CAROLINA

The Avalanche will get its first look at playing in back-to-back games as the club takes on the Hurricanes in Raleigh, North Carolina, at 5 p.m. MT on Friday.

Colorado will play a total of nine back-to-back games this season after having 12 last year.

This marks the second and final meeting of the season between the Avs and Canes, as the teams met last week at Pepsi Center. Carolina won that Oct. 21 contest 1-0 in overtime.

Other than being on home ice, the Hurricanes won't have much more of an advantage over the Avalanche as they also played on the road on Thursday. Carolina won 3-2 in overtime at the New York Islanders.

"It's going to be a good test," Roy said. "It's a team that is playing well, and we need to be ready for these guys."

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