Avs Find Another Way to Keep Winning

Colorado added to its resume a comeback victory Sunday night against Winnipeg.

Monday, 10.28.2013 / 12:52 AM
Scott Ward

As it continues to author a season start that not many around here have ever seen or expected to see this season, the Avalanche keeps coming up with new ways to win.

Colorado trailed Winnipeg after the second period Sunday but got third-period scores from defenseman Jan Hejda and forward Paul Stastny in a come-from-behind 3-2 win at Pepsi Center.

The Avs hadn’t trailed after 40 minutes of any game this season, but they waved off that slight bit of adversity during the second intermission and came out firing, continuing a trend this season of winning games in a variety of ways.

Colorado this season has recorded some blowout wins (6-1 vs. Anaheim, 5-1 at Washington), some edge-of-your-seat nailbiters (2-1 at Toronto, 1-0 at Pittsburgh) and now a better-late-than-never thriller.

“It’s just another step in the right direction, trailing after two and coming back,” Gabriel Landeskog said. “I think for us, we stayed with it, stayed with the game plan, [and] I think we felt all game long that we could win this game. We got ourselves in a little bit of penalty trouble, but we stayed with it and got two big goals in the third.”

Hejda’s score came with about 13 minutes to play in regulation when he lifted his stick high and let loose from 50 feet, roofing the puck past Winnipeg goalie Al Montoya.

Stastny’s game winner was with five minutes left, after a couple of perfect passes from Alex Tanguay and Gabriel Landeskog.

“When we keep it down there—me, [Landeskog] and [Tanguay]—when we have possession we know we can make plays,” Stastny said. “Tangs sucked two guys towards him, made that play to Landy, and I think goalies always [have] to respect Landy’s shot, and he fires it between two sticks right on my stick and just an easy tap in.”

“I was just trying to beat my guy back to the middle because Tanguay was going to feather that through,” Landeskog added. “Nice play between the legs, and then Pauly [was] banging backdoor, yelling at me to pass the puck, so I did and he buried that one.”

Colorado and Winnipeg matched each other with 19 shots apiece through the first two periods, with the Avs dealing with a little bit of bad luck early after two near-goals were waived off by the referee. Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy met with his team during the second intermission, made some adjustments, and Colorado was a different team down the stretch.

The Avs outshot the Jets 17-6 in the final period.

“During a season you always have to face adversity,” Roy said, “and it was important for us to try to give our best period. I’m proud of our guys. They battled even harder in the third. We made a couple adjustments, but they played hard.

“It’s the way we’ve been. Everyone is bringing something to the team, and I’m proud of them.”

HISTORICAL START KEEPS ROLLING ON

This 2013-14 version of the Avalanche has already written itself into its franchise’s record books, but many of those entries have come with a clarification. Much of the accomplishments have been of the “since moving to Denver” variety.

That can’t be said of this year's incredible start, though. Not any more.

At 10-1-0, with no more games to play in October, the Avalanche just completed the best month of any of the months played in franchise history (minimum 10 games played). Colorado earned 20 out of a possible 22 points, giving it a 90.9 winning percentage, besting the 85.7 mark it set in January 2001 (10-0-3-1) and March 2007 (11-1-2).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Avalanche is the seventh team in NHL history to win 10 of its first 11 games of a season but only the third to do so while recording each victory in regulation. The other two teams to do it both did so during the 1994-95 season: the  Penguins (10-0-1) and the Nordiques (10-1-0).

Myriad storylines have developed over the past four weeks, but Roy’s return to the franchise he helped lead to a pair of Stanley Cups has been paramount among them. He was a key cog in helping the franchise establish a period of dominance not often seen in professional sports, and it’s not hard to dream a little and see him doing the same now in this leadership role.

He’s not interested in taking credit for his team’s great October, though

“It’s a team thing,” he said. “I’ve been saying all along that I’m a partner with our players, and our coaching staff is partners. It’s everybody: the players, the coaches, the goalies. It’s been teamwork so far, and they’ve accepted to make the sacrifice, they’ve accepted the teaching we have to give them, and they’ve been extremely receptive to all this.

“But at the end, they’re the ones who start to change people’s opinion about our team. … They’re the one who does it, and they’re the ones who should take the credit for it.”

GETTING DEFENSIVE

Hejda’s impressive third-period blast was his second goal of the season and the fifth tally from a Colorado defenseman this season.

The Avalanche got five goals from its blue-liners last year in 48 games.

Hejda talked Sunday morning and again Sunday night about the change in approach the Avalanche defensemen have taken this season. The effects have been on full display through the season’s first month.

Along with Hejda’s pair, Colorado also has defensemen goals from Erik Johnson (two) and Cory Sarich (one).

“[It’s] confidence, and also we play more aggressive,” Hejda said. “More pinching in the offensive zone by defensemen because we know that forwards are picking us up, so we know we can pinch because there’s a backup always. We trust them, and it’s created more chances to score.”

DUCHENE TIES FRANCHISE MARK

Matt Duchene put the Avalanche ahead 1-0 at 11:56 in the first period with a perfect wrist shot from the left faceoff circle after he took a soft rebound from a Steve Downie shot from the other circle.

The score was Duchene’s ninth of the month and the season, and he surpassed his own goals-in-a-month record (December 2010) and tied the franchise’s mark for October goals since it moved to Denver in 1995. Joe Sakic scored nine goals in October 1997, Peter Forsberg did the same in October 2000, and Chris Stewart had nine, too, in October 2010.

Duchene's nine goals are his most ever in any single month of his career, surpassing the eight tallies he had in December 2010.

If you’re wondering, Michel Goulet, a former Nordiques star and NHL Hall of Famer, holds the franchise’s record for goals scored in any month with 16. He did that twice, in January 1984 and December 1985.

THIRD CHIME’S A CHARM

Colorado had a near score 35 seconds into the game when Duchene let a wrist shot fly from about 10 feet, but it pinged off the left post and ricocheted back onto the ice. The Pepsi Center goal horn blared, the crowd reacted accordingly, and things looked like they were starting well for the Avs.

One problem. While all the commotion was going on, one of the referees stood behind the net emphatically waving off the score. It was the right call, so play continued, and the score remain tied 0-0.

The same episode played out about seven minutes later when Gabe Landeskog got his own rebound and tried to throw a shot past an out-of-position Montoya, but the Jets’ Olli Jokinen had snuck into the crease and got a skate on Landeskog’s try.

Again, the goal horn blared, the crowd roared, and Colorado looked like it was finally on the board. The referee again correctly waived it off, though, and play continued.

It was an odd scene to see once, let alone twice.

The next time the horn sounded it counted with Duchene’s record-tying score.

LOOSE PUCKS

- Left wing Jamie McGinn didn’t skate against Winnipeg after suffering a knee injury. Roy didn’t mention in his postgame media session any status update on McGinn, who had played all 10 Colorado games this season after skating in all but one game last year and in 17 of the Avs' 18 games in the 2011-12 season after being acquired from San Jose at the February trade deadline.

McGinn has five points this season, including three goals scored. He found the net twice in Colorado’s season-opening 6-1 win against Anaheim.

Defenseman Tyson Barrie replaced McGinn in the lineup and John Mitchell replaced him in the forward rotation. Roy decided to play the Jets with 11 forwards and seven defensemen—a departure from his preference in the preseason to dress 12 forwards and eight defensemen.

It was Barrie’s first action since Colorado’s Oct. 10 game at Boston.

- The Avalanche and Jets now compete in the same Central Division and will play five times in 2013-14—three games in Denver and two in Manitoba.

The Avs improved Sunday to 8-7-3 all-time against the Thrashers/Jets franchise and 4-4-2 at home. It was Colorado’s first win against the franchise under the “Jets” moniker (1-2-0).

“They played really well,” Duchene said. “Their goalie (Montoya) played very well. They had a lot of energy, a lot of speed. They are a good hockey team, and we are going to see them a lot, so it’s good to win the first one against them.”

COLORADO VS. WINNIPEG IN 2013-14
* Sunday, Oct. 27 (Denver) – W, 3-2
* Thursday, Dec. 12 (Winnipeg)
* Sunday, Dec. 29 (Denver)
* Monday, March 10 (Denver)
* Wednesday, March 19 (Winnipeg)

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