It had been 2,737 days since Alex Tanguay last scored a regular-season goal in an Avalanche uniform.
After he took care of that Saturday, it took him less than two hours to do it again.
Tanguay was brought back to Colorado in a June trade with Calgary, and he scored in an Avalanche sweater Saturday for the first time since April 2006 when he found the net early in the first period at Verizon Center.
He later squeaked a shot past Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth in the third period, too, for a shorthanded goal that helped Colorado cruise by the Capitals 5-1 and continue its incredible start to the season.
Now, at 5-0—following an impressive road sweep through the Maple Leafs, Bruins and Capitals—Colorado is in the midst of one of the best season starts in its franchise history, but its line of Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Tanguay had been scuffling a bit early on in the season.
Outsiders looked at it as a good sign that one of the Avs’ best trios hadn’t yet found its groove yet the team was still doing so well, but Tanguay said before Saturday’s game he and his linemates were anxious to really get going.
They did Saturday.
Along with Tanguay’s two scores, Stastny also added a pair of assists to give the line 10 points through the season’s first five games.
“Our line hasn’t been clicking as much as we’d like so far,” Tanguay said. “I’m usually a slow starter, but it’s nice to get the first one out of the way. Our line, we feel like we can produce offensively. I’m playing with great players, ‘Landy’ (Gabriel Landeskog) and ‘Stas’ (Paul Stastny), and certainly the team is doing well. On most nights we’ve got a tough matchup on the other side, but we feel we can contribute, and hopefully I’ll get going and play a little bit better, too.”
Tanguay represents the Avs’ championship past—he scored two goals, including the game winner in Colorado’s Game 7 win in the 2001 Stanley Cup Final—and he figures to play a big part in their championship future, too.
He was brought back to the team this summer to add some scoring punch to Colorado’s offense but also provide veteran leadership to a team bubbling over with young talent. If he can bring any of the magic with him that was on display almost nightly in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Colorado is in for a fun season.
“I like our intensity, there’s no doubt about it,” said Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, who played with Tanguay for five seasons. “I thought we were very focused before the game. We jumped at them right from the start.
“Right now, we take it one day at a time. We just say, ‘Why not? Why not us?’ We’ve been working hard every day, we’re remaining humble, we know that we’re playing against very good teams.”
Nathan MacKinnon had scored four points in the Avalanche’s first four games this season (all on assists), but he was still waiting to put a puck in the back of the net after doing just that 63 times the past two season with the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
When he finally did it Saturday, throwing one in the left side past Neuvirth at 17:41 in the second period, he celebrated like any 18-year-old might do: with a one-man mosh pit.
Just him and the Verizon Center corner glass was all he needed to commemorate the occasion. Landeskog was there, waiting to celebrate with the precocious MacKinnon, but MacKinnon skated right past him and jumped into the glass in celebration.
Then he gathered himself and accepted the helmet taps and hugs.
It’s a funny anecdote in a career that’s sure to feature many more goal celebrations for the kid from Halifax who was the top overall pick in this past summer’s NHL Draft.
“It’s only my fifth game, but it felt like a longer time than that,” MacKinnon said. “I feel like a kid on Christmas right now. It’s great. I don’t know what my celebration looked like. I’ll have to look at it again. I kind of blacked out, but it was a lot of fun to score that one.”
VARLAMOV BACK IN THE DISTRICT
Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov started in goal Saturday for the fourth time this year and faced the team that drafted him into the NHL for the first time since it traded him to Colorado in summer 2012.
Varlamov spent parts of three seasons with the Capitals after they selected him in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2006 Entry Draft. He posted a 30-13-12 record in 59 games with Washington and left the Caps as the franchise's all-time leader in career save percentage (.917) and was second in goals-against average (2.39).
After an up and down 2012-13 season, Varlamov has been phenomenal in the early going this year, surrendering just four goals and winning four times in his first four starts this season.
He shut out Toronto on Tuesday to become the first goaltender in franchise history to allow one goal or less in each of his first three starts of a season, and he matched the effort Saturday.
“He’s playing outstanding,” Roy said. “What I like about ‘Varly’ is that he’s under control. He’s always square to the shooters, he gets out of the net, he’s playing with a lot of confidence and he deserves it. The success that he has, he has done it on his own.
“I don’t want to start comparing here (Varlamov to Roy), but at the same time he’s playing outstanding.”
HEY, MR. WILSON!
After being held to just 12 games last season with a nagging ankle injury, Ryan Wilson played his first game of this season Saturday night—his 200th career NHL game—and he got 16:18 minutes of ice time in his season debut.
He suffered a minor knee injury during the Avalanche’s Burgundy/White intrasquad game in mid-September and was shut down for the rest of Colorado’s preseason and the first four games of the regular season.
Now healthy and back in game shape, Wilson made his season debut Saturday.
"They gave me a little extra time to prepare since I couldn't do anything for two weeks,” Wilson said following the Avalanche’s Saturday morning pregame skate. “It was miserable for me, just sitting around and not even being able to bike. It takes a lot to get back into game shape, and I feel that I'm ready now."
Wilson had been skating for the much of the past two weeks, but he didn’t full participate in a team practice until last Sunday’s practice at Family Sports Center in Centennial.
"The guys are doing great right now," Wilson said. "They are off to a great start, and I'm excited to get back into the lineup and help the team out."
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
-Tonight's game was the Avalanche's first meeting with the Capitals since December 2011, when it defeated Washington 2-1 at Pepsi Center. It was the teams’ first matchup in D.C. since December 2010. Colorado won that game, too, 3-2.
-Paul Stastny assisted on MacKinnon’s second-period score and Tanguay’s third-period goal, giving him three points this season and 401 for his career.
He’s just the 10th player in franchise history to eclipse the 400-point mark but the third Stastny, joining his father, NHL Hall of Famer Peter Stastny (1048 points) and his uncle Anton Stastny (636).
TOP 10 COLORADO AVALANCHE FRANCHISE POINTS SCORERS
• J. Sakic 1641
• Pe. Stastny 1048
• M. Goulet 945
• M. Hejduk 805
• P. Forsberg 755
• A. Stastny 636
• D. Hunter 464
• V. Kamensky 414
• A. Tanguay 405
• Pa. Stastny 401
-Matt Duchene’s first-period goal moved him within one point of 200 for his career.
-Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick cleared waivers Saturday and was reassigned to the AHL Lake Erie Monsters.
-The Avalanche’s penalty killing unit has yet to allow a power-play goal this year, killing off all 12 short-handed situations it’s faced.
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