Erik Johnson scored with 1:51 to play in the third period Monday night, tying the Avalanche 3-3 with San Jose.
After Johnson's blue line slap shot whizzed by John McCarthy and Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, Jamie McGinn followed 12 seconds later with a redirect of a John Mitchell tough-angle flick from the left side to give the Avalanche a 4-3 lead.
Then, with 20 seconds to play, San Jose’s Joe Pavelski tied the game back at 4-4 from just in front of the crease, after he took a behind-the-net pass from Joe Thornton.
The final two minutes of the third period Monday at SAP Center were some kind of crazy. The game eventually made its way to a shootout, and the Sharks prevailed, leaving the Avalanche with two points on this pre-NHL Holiday Break trip to Los Angeles (Saturday) and San Jose.
“It’s too bad, but at the same time I think again tonight we showed a lot of character,” Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said. “I thought we played really well, and we scored two big goals and took the lead 4-3, and they made a great play at the end to tie the game.
“I thought it was a great game for both teams, and it was a great show for the fans. You know what? Coming out of the California trip with two points out of four … For us, if someone would have said to me, ‘You’re going to get one and one in L.A. and San Jose, I would have [taken] it. Obviously, I would have [taken] three out of four, but it’s good.”
The Avs were dynamic in the first period, getting off 15 shots, and they led 2-1 at the first intermission after goals from Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. San Jose was the better team in the second period—“The length of our shifts were a little too long, and we got outworked because of it,” Roy said—and then both teams, with a one-goal game in the balance, played it close to the vest throughout the third period.
Until the final two minutes.
Johnson’s shot, off a right-wall pass from Ryan O’Reilly, gave him six points (four goals, two assists) in his past five games, and McGinn’s goal a few seconds later left the Avalanche bench in euphoria. At this time of the year it's easy to make a comparison to children on Christmas Eve, but ... well, the Avalanche players looked exactly like that.
And if so, Pavelski served as the Grinch. His slapper past Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov a little more than a minute later caused the a similar euphoric reaction throughout the arena.
“These are adjustments we also have to make as a coach,” Roy said when asked about what his team can learn from the last-second goal surrendered. “I think at the end we could have played it differently, system-wise, as well, and we’ll make those adjustments.”
Landeskog's wrister also came in dramatic fashion, but his score was early in the game. It came with 49 seconds to play in the first period and put the Avs ahead 2-1. PA Parenteau started the sequence with a slip pass up the right wall that led Paul Stastny into the right face-off circle. Stastny quickly pushed it to Landeskog in the slot, and he skated it toward the crease and a retreating Niemi before flicking it into the left side.
The Avs had surrendered their fair share of last-minute goals this season, but they turned the tables here and swiped some late momentum into the first intermission. The goal also was a strong cap to fast-paced and physical first period that included 28 shots (COL, 15-13) and fights between Cody McLeod and Mike Brown and Jamie McGinn and Brad Stuart.
“[The Sharks] are very offensive, like us,” Nathan MacKinnon said. “They’re a very fast team—they don’t mind opening it up like us, as well. … For us to get that goal by the end of the period by Landy [was] huge for us.”
It was MacKinnon who started the game’s scoring, when he threw the puck into the net for the eighth time this season and gave the Avs a 1-0 lead at 11:05 of the first.
Johnson brought the puck into the San Jose zone then pushed it toward O’Reilly along the right wall. O’Reilly immediately came under pressure and got the puck behind him and to MacKinnon, who moved away from the wall and into the slot before firing on Niemi. The puck glanced off the stick of San Jose’s Andrew Desjardins and right between Niemi’s gloved left hand and left pad.
Desjardins stood in disbelief.
The score was Colorado’s third straight power-play goal after both of its goals Saturday in Los Angeles came with a man advantage.
“It’s huge for us, obviously [to find power-play success,” MacKinnon said. “We were struggling for a little bit, and ‘Factor’ (Ryan O’Reilly) made a good play to me, and it just tipped of the guy’s stick, but they all count the same. The power play is very important for us, and it’s huge for us to get a goal like that.”
- Matt Duchene’s consecutive multipoint-games streak ended Monday at four games. He had scored two goals and dished out seven assists in his past four games—the longest such run of his career—and became the first Colorado player since 2008 (Stastny) to score at least two points in four consecutive games.
Duchene assisted on Erik Johnson’s third-period, game-tying goal Monday, giving him 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his past seven games. He leads the Avalanche in goals (16), assists (18), points (33), power-play goals (four), game-winning goals (three-tied) and shots (104).
- Jan Hejda skated Monday in his 500th NHL game, becoming the 19th Czech-born defenseman (Prague, Czech Republic) in NHL history to reach 500 games.
Hejda joined Stastny, who earned his 500th start Saturday in Los Angeles, as two of just 17 players in franchise history and seven in Avalanche history (since 1995) to reach the career milestone.
- Ryan Wilson was once again one of the Avalanche’s scratches, joining Nick Holden and Brad Malone. Avalanche coach Patrick Roy had said—hoped?—last week that Wilson would be ready for a return to the lineup on this California road trip, but it’s now come and gone without Wilson making an appearance.
Malone sat out for the 12th straight game, with his last appearance coming Nov. 29 at Minnesota. Holden notched a “DND” for the fifth time in six Colorado games and the 23rd time this season.
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