After missing the game on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings due to a minor groin issue, goaltender Semyon Varlamov proved he was healthy and ready to go two days later when he earned a 3-2 shootout victory over the visiting New Jersey Devils.
Varlamov started again on Saturday night, this time helping his team defeat the red-hot Calgary Flames in a close 3-2 contest. The victory extended his season-high win streak to five games.
The Avalanche held the Flames scoreless on three power-play opportunities on Saturday, which played a key role in helping the club earn an important two points in the standings.
“The team played in front of me very well today, especially on the P.K.,” the Russian netminder said after the match. “I think that was the key of the game. We played very solid on the P.K.”
The Avs have killed off 26 of their last 27 penalties (96.3%) and 33 of their last 35 (94.3%).
The Flames, who are fighting to maintain a playoff spot, currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division with 81 points, good for seventh place overall in the Western Conference. This resilient Calgary team has come back from a two-goal deficit to gain a point 12 different times this season, and almost did it again on Saturday in Denver. Nine of those league-leading 12 multi-goal comebacks have ended in a victory for the Flames (four regulation wins, 5 in overtime or a shootout).
“We knew they were going to play very, very good, offensive hockey. So we prepared ourselves to play against them the last two days, and I think that’s why we had success today,” Varlamov said. “I think the coaching staff [has] done a great job.”
The Avs held 2-0 and 3-1 advantages throughout the night before Calgary made it a one-goal game less than six minutes into the final period. However, playing with any type of lead can easily help your last line of defense feel more comfortable toward the end of the contest.
Goalie - COL
GAA: 2.51 | Sv%: .922
“When you lead 2-0 or 3-0 or 2-1, 3-2, whatever, when you lead, the play is so much easier for me,” said Varlamov. “The guys always give me confidence when they’re scoring big goals.”
Colorado is 5-1-0 in its last six games, 8-3-0 in its last 11 and 10-4-0 in its last 14. At 32-26-11, the Avalanche is a season-high six games above .500 as it continues to push for a postseason berth.
“[Thirteen] games to go and we still have to win lots of games to make the playoffs,” said Varlamov. “But I think this team never gives up, and we’re going to battle [until] the end of the season [and] try to make the playoffs, for sure.”
The NHL’s second star for the week of March 2-8, Varlamov has started 24 of Colorado’s last 25 games and 32 of the last 34. His 22-game consecutive-start streak from Jan. 15 to March 8 fell one short of tying Craig Anderson’s record for the most straight starts by an Avalanche goalie (Jan. 9 - March 14, 2010). Varlamov went 12-8-2 with a 2.36 goals-against average, .922 save percentage and two shutouts during that stretch.
Varlamov has posted a 1.00 goals-against average and .968 save percentage in his last five starts, allowing just five goals on 158 shots faced in that span.