Ryan O’Reilly put the Avalanche ahead 1-0 just 20 seconds into its game with the Jets on Wednesday, and that was just the beginning of another hard-fought, back-and-forth game between these new Central Division rivals.
Blake Wheeler gave Winnipeg a 5-4 win when he scored 1:42 into overtime at MTS Centre, but the Avs fended off three one-goal deficits before that to earn a point in the final game of this three-game Canadian road trip.
“Both teams had good chances,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “We scored on our chances, and at the end [Winnipeg] made a great play. Wheeler I thought made a really good play and scored a nice goal.”
Colorado (44-20-6, 94 pts.) wrapped up its season series with the Jets at 3-0-2, taking eight points out of a possible 10.
The Avs would have liked to have won this game and the two points that would have come with it—they fell a point behind the Blackhawks into third in the Central after Chicago (40-15-15, 95) downed St. Louis 4-0—but to take at least a point Wednesday without regulars Paul Stastny (precautionary), John Mitchell (day-to-day) and Semyon Varlamov (rest) was a bit of coup for Roy’s club.
“We talked about it before the game,” he said. “We were not trying to find excuses. We haven’t done that all year. We just wanted to make sure we had a good start, and we did. We scored on our first shift. I thought our guys had good legs. Now tomorrow we’ll rest, and we need to be ready for the Bruins on Friday night.”
“That’s something we certainly take away from this game,” added Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who tied the game 2-2 with a wrister at 17:47 of the first period. “Even though we’ve got a lot of injuries, just like any team, I think we did a good job of staying in this game and coming back multiple times.
“They were coming hard, and they took the lead numerous times. Certainly, it’s a big point for us, and we’ll take that.”
Winnipeg answered O’Reilly’s quick score to go ahead 2-1 over the next almost 12 minutes before Landeskog knotted the game into the first intermission.
The teams traded goals in each of the second and third periods—with Nick Holden potting his career-high eighth in the second and Cody McLeod scoring for the third time this year in his home province of Manitoba in the third.
McLeod, known for his rugged, gritty play, did his best goal-scorer impersonation to tie the game 4-4 when he and Matt Duchene came down the ice with a 2-on-1 with 9:41 to play in the third.
He waited and waited, but instead of slipping the puck across to Duchene (the Avalanche’s leading scorer this season) McLeod just slapped it right between Jets’ goalie Al Montoya’s pads.
McLeod is from Binscarth, Manitoba, which is just about 335 kilometers or four hours west of Winnipeg, tucked just inside the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border. He couldn’t have picked a better time or place to find the net for the third time this season.
“You’d like to be able to close that one out in regulation but that’s not the way it works,” Wheeler said. “That’s not the way it’s been this year for us, for whatever reason.”
New Avalanche goalie Reto Berra started in net and was solid in his debut, particularly toward the end.
Acquired at the NHL trade deadline on March 5, Berra made 22 saves overall against Winnipeg and was stout in the final 9:37 of regulation, making five saves down the stretch after McLeod put the Avs in position to at least claim a point.
“It’s his first game,” Roy said. “We could tell that he was a bit nervous, but when the game was on the line at 4-4 with a couple minutes left he made some good saves for us. I thought for his first game he did a good job. He didn’t make a lot of big saves, but he didn’t let any soft ones in. They scored on nice shots.”
» Jamie McGinn assisted on O’Reilly’s quick score to extend his point streak to five games, a career long (three goals, four assists).
» Maxime Talbot accounted for his sixth multipoint game with the Avs and 22nd of his career with assists on Holden’s and McLeod’s goals. Those were his career-high 15th and 16th helpers of the season, topping his previous best (14) set with the Flyers in the 2011-12 season.
» Holden’s score gave Colorado's defensemen 39 goals this season, their most since 2005-06 (52 goals).
“On that goal I got lucky,” Holden said. [Tyson Barrie] made a great pass. I was trying to find Talbot back door, and that [defenseman] (Tobias Enstrom) came sliding right across—I think he may have hit it off his butt and put it in.”
» With the overtime point, the Avs moved to 21-9-2 in their past 32 games. They’re now a point shy of equaling their highest point total since the 2004-05 lockout, matching a total met in four seasons since, including in 2009-10.
» The Avalanche is 4-1-1 in their past six road games and 10-4-1 in its past 15 away from home. Colorado is 21-10-3 on the road this season, which is the club’s most road wins since 2006-07 (22).
» The Avs finished off their season series with the Jets with a 3-0-2 mark, 2-0-1 at home and 1-0-1 on the road.
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