ST. PAUL, Minn. – In tight games, goaltenders are expected to give their respective teams a chance at the win by making the saves they are supposed to make.
Semyon Varlamov made those saves and then some on Monday night in Game 3 of the Colorado Avalanche's first round series with the Minnesota Wild.
Varlamov made a playoff career-high 45 saves in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Wild. The only puck that was able to get past him came after a drive toward the net and a nice move by Mikael Granlund at 5:08 of the extra period. Colorado leads the best-of-seven series 2-1.
"He was great," forward Maxime Talbot said of his goalie. "Throughout the season for us he was definitely our MVP. I think tonight he was the Varly we know, and its great to have him back there making saves for us and giving us a chance to win this game."
During the regular season Varlamov was 7-1-1 when facing 40 or more shots and 6-0-1 when making 40 or more saves.
He had to be on his game in the first period against Minnesota, and he was.
The Wild fired a franchise-playoff record 22 shots on Varlamov, and the netminder stopped all 22 to set an Avalanche/Nordiques franchise mark for saves in a playoff period.
The Avs were outshot 22-8 in the first period and 46-22 through overtime, but Colorado had better scoring chances as the game went on. That was helped by the stellar play of its goaltender.
"He was outstanding. He was the only reason why we had a chance to win this game," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said. "We were one shot away. Let's not forget about it. Varly was sharp. This is the way he has been all year for us. He was again outstanding out there."
The Colorado goalie was tested from all over the ice and many of his saves weren't easy either. He stopped several odd-man rushes and point-blank chances in regulation to keep the game scoreless. When there were rebounds, Varlamov's defensemen were there to swat the puck out of harms way.
"Credit to us and Varly for sticking with what we had to do for the most part," Avs defenseman Erik Johnson said. "We let Varly see everything and took care of second and third opportunities. They were shooting from everywhere."
After a bit of a rocky start in Game 1 of the series, Varlamov has been steady in net. He still made 29 saves in a 5-4 overtime win in the first game and had a strong 30-save outing in a 4-2 victory in Game 2.
Varlamov was playing some of his best hockey at the end of the season, and it seems to have carried over into the playoffs. He is 9-0-2 in his last 11 games (season and playoffs) and has a 2.00 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. His last loss in regulation came in a 2-0 shutout by Boston on March 21.
"It's awesome. He's the best goalie in the world, hands down," Johnson said. "You got to love what he has done. He revamped his game over the summer, came back and he should win the Vezina [Trophy for best goalie]. He should maybe win the Hart [Trophy for league MVP]. He could do it all. Got to give him a lot of credit."
Defenseman Tyson Barrie left in the second period of Game 3 with a knee injury and did not return. He may be out for the remainder of the postseason.
|Tyson Barrie |
Barrie collided Wild left wing Matt Cooke in front of the Minnesota bench and stayed on the ice for a few moments before making it to the Colorado bench and locker room on his own power. Cooke was assessed a two-minute penalty for kneeing on the play.
"Without a doubt, the play of the game. We lost our best offensive defenseman, and I think it could have been a five-minute major," Roy said. "[Cooke] would have been out of the game plus I think it would have broken their momentum, and we would have been on the power play. There are key moments in these games, and now we believe the league will make the right call."
Roy said after the game that the injury was to Barrie's medial collateral ligament and that he is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. The injury would likely take Barrie out of the lineup until the conference finals or the Stanley Cup Final, if the Avs make it that far.
The NHL Department of Player Safety said late Monday night that Cooke has been offered an in-person hearing for the hit.
Matt Duchene still isn't expected to play in the Avalanche's opening-round series with the Wild, but it appears as if the skilled forward is making progress in his rehab of a knee injury.
Duchene skated Monday morning for the first time since suffering the injury in the first minute of the March 29 game against San Jose.
"That was part of the process," Roy said on Monday morning. "The trainer thought it was a good time for him to start skating today. We'll go day to day with him on the skating, and if he improves we'll see if he can get involved in practices."
The Avs forward didn't participate in any practice drills, but he was on the ice with the team during the club's morning session doing different skating, stickhandling and passing activities.
Duchene led the Avalanche in scoring during the regular season with a career-high 70 points. He tallied 23 goals and 47 assists before missing the final eight games of the season.
The original diagnosis on Duchene's injury was for him to miss roughly four weeks. He has been out of the lineup for 23 days as of Monday.