The talk Tuesday morning around Bridgestone Arena’s visiting dressing room almost entirely focused on the lack of panic the Avalanche had in regards to the three-game losing streak that had followed it from Denver to Nashville.
The Avs had lost three consecutive games previously this season and even had a four-game streak in late December, but its latest skid felt a bit different if only because of its timing.
Colorado continues to add to one of the best seasons in its franchise history and is a near-lock for a Stanley Cup playoffs berth, but limping into the postseason isn’t what anyone ever has in mind.
Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog championed that prevailing “It’s going to be OK” thought and then got on the ice Tuesday and backed it up in Colorado’s 5-4 shootout victory against the Predators (31-31-11).
Landeskog scored a goal in the first period, added another in the second—setting a career high with 23 goals this season—and assisted on a dramatic Nick Holden score toward the end of the third. He then finished the game with a one-on-one wrister past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne to end the shootout.
Landeskog and the Avalanche (45-21-6) thought it deserved better in Friday’s 2-0 loss to Boston. And it probably thinks it stole one in Nashville.
That’s just how it goes, though.
Here’s Landeskog from Tuesday morning, before he carried out a captain’s mission and ended the Avs’ losing streak Tuesday night:
“It’s been like that all season. Sometimes you win games that you don’t deserve; sometimes you lose games that you don’t necessarily feel like you’re supposed to lose. We just keep on trucking, and we have a mentality in here where, ‘Work ethic comes first, and then skill will come along after.’”
Check and check.
The Avalanche began Tuesday three points behind Chicago for second place in the Central Division and would have fallen farther behind the Blackhawks, who won 4-2 against Dallas earlier Tuesday.
Instead, the Avs regained some momentum and stayed within striking distance of Chicago (99-96). The Avalanche also has two home games waiting, against Vancouver (7 p.m. MT Thursday) and San Jose (1 p.m. MT Saturday).
It wouldn’t have happened without Landeskog.
Colorado was down 2-0 with less than a minute to go before the first intermission and had been outshot 13-1 before the Avalanche captain, who’s still just 21, got one past Rinne at 19:06. Nathan MacKinnon worked behind the net and kept a couple of Predators defenders at bay before he passed to Paul Stastny, who left it for Landeskog from about 13 feet.
Landeskog then tied the game 2-2 at 8:41 of the second when he ripped a high-slot wrister past Rinne, who shut out the Blackhawks 2-0 on Sunday.
“[The first-period score] was one of the key moments in the game,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “It put us back, and then second period, same thing, [it] tied the game. What I like about our group is we were resilient, even if we were not playing our best game.”
The Predators led 3-2 at the second intermission after Matt Cullen threw a shot past Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov at 14:43 of the second, but Cody McLeod, one of Colorado’s alternate captains (Stastny), stepped up and scored his second goal in three games (Winnipeg, March 19).
Nick Holden then continued his rise from nowhere to prominence with his ninth goal of the season at 16:01 of the third that tied the game 4-4 as Colorado climbed back from another one-goal deficit.
It was Holden's third goal and fourth point against the Predators this season, in back-to-back games in Nashville.
“[Holden is] shooting with a lot of confidence—you can tell,” Roy said. “On that play I’m sure their goalie would loved to have that shot back, but it was a great play by [Holden] in the neutral zone. He came around and took a nice shot.”
Matt Duchene, who assisted on McLeod’s goal for his career-high 68th point this season, missed against Rinne on the Avs’ first shootout try, but Ryan O’Reilly and Landeskog didn’t miss, and the Avs left Nashville with two straight wins after losing seven straight road games to the predators.
“It could have easily been three or four nothing after the first period for them,” Roy said, “but sometimes it’s nice to win a game when you’re not playing well, and that was the case tonight. I thought we deserved better against the Bruins, and tonight it was the opposite. We found a way to win that game, and our players certainly deserve a lot of credit for it.”
» Paul Stastny’s assist on Gabriel Landeskog’s second goal Tuesday gave him 50 points in a single season for the sixth time in his career. It also gave the Avs five players with 50 or more points for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Matt Duchene (68), Landeskog (58), Ryan O’Reilly (57), Nathan MacKinnon (55) and Stastny join the 2006-07 quintet of Joe Sakic (100), Andrew Brunette (83), Stastny himself (78), Milan Hejduk (70) and Wojtek Wolski (50).
» Duchene’s assist on McLeod’s goal in the third period was his career-high 68th point of the season (22 goals, 46 assists), surpassing his 67 points scored (27 goals, 40 assists) in the 2010-11 season.
» There were just two penalties called in Tuesday’s game. Both were against the Avalanche, but neither was against Ryan O’Reilly. He’s now at 70 games this season with no penalty-box time, and he’s the only player in the NHL with at least 50 games played and no PIMs.
Butch Goring (Islanders, 1980-81) was the last NHL player to skate in at least 60 games without committing a penalty.
“It’s mainly just luck,” O’Reilly told reporters Monday after practice.
» The Avalanches scratches Tuesday: forwards John Mitchell and PA Parenteau, defensemen Ryan Wilson and Nate Guenin and goalie Reto Berra.
Mitchell, who hasn’t played since March 18 after he injured his back in a end-wall crash at Montreal’s Bell Centre, is considered day-to-day. He skated before Monday's practice at Family Sports, but he didn't participate in any team drills or join the team’s flight to Tennessee.
"[Mitchell] said he is seeing some improvement, but not enough to play," Roy said Monday. “We're not going to put a [time frame on his return], but it's going to be a day-to-day. He could play as soon as the next game, or he could miss another three or four."
» The Avs are 11-4-1 in their past 16 road games and 22-10-3 (.671) on the road this season, their most victories away from home since 2006-07 (22). The Avalanche will play six of its remaining 10 games away from home.
» Goalie Semyon Varlamov improved to 35-14-5, adding to his career high in single-season wins and moving him into a tie with Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy (35, 2002-03) for the fourth most wins in a season in franchise history.
» The Avs came into this season without a win in Nashville since Jan. 6, 2009 (0-6-1 between then and Opening Night), but they left town Tuesday with two consecutive wins in the Music City after also winning 5-4 at Bridgestone Arena on Jan. 18.
“It’s a fun building to play here,” winger Jamie McGinn said Tuesday morning. “The fans are louder than you would expect, and [Nashville plays] well at home. It’s always a tough matchup.”
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