Holden Delivers Big Game As Avs Hold Off Predators
A different player has stepped up each night, and it was Nick Holden's turn Saturday
It's no secret that the Avalanche has been dealing with injuries the past few weeks, but even with several key players out of the lineup Colorado has still found ways to win.
The Avs held off a comeback by the Nashville Predators and pulled out a 5-4 victory on Saturday night to win their fourth in a row. Colorado is now 5-0-1 in its last six games and 8-1-1 in its last 10 contests.
In each of the recent wins a different player seems to have stepped up, and on Saturday it was Nick Holden's turn. The defenseman scored two goals and assisted on what ended up being the game-winning tally early in the third period.
"We have had a ton of injuries and guys have been stepping up. It has been different guys. Luckily, it was me tonight," Holden said. "We just have to keep rolling here, try and play a little better defensively into games. I think it was huge to come into Nashville, a divisional game, and get two points here."
Holden finished the night with three points, a plus-2 rating, five shots and nine hits in 18:07 of ice time, and afterwards he admitted that was probably one of his best stat lines of his playing career.
"That stat line is definitely pretty good. That is probably one of the best ones I have had," he said. "I definitely had the team in front me to help me out. Some good plays to get me those two goals, and then [Matt Duchene] with an unbelievable shot that went in there (the game-winning goal). The hits, I just try and do that every game. Try and hit as much as I can. Try and take time and space away from forwards."
It didn’t take much after the game for Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy to praise Holden for his solid night.
"Nick Holden, what a performance he had tonight," Roy said. "Two goals, one assist. He almost scored a hat trick. I guess it has been awhile since a defenseman for the Avs have had a hat trick. That would have been something really special."
How close was Holden to his third goal of the game? Pretty darn close as he had space in front of the net and fired a shot that just missed an opening and went wide early in the third period.
However, Holden did get a point out of the shot. The puck went around the wall to Duchene at the low right side, and the forward scored on a shot that zoomed over the Nashville goalie's shoulder.
The defenseman from St. Albert, Alberta scored his first goal of the game after a scramble in front of the net at 6:21 of the first period. Nathan MacKinnon's shot from the right side deflected off Devan Dubnyk and right to Holden at the left circle. Holden then threw the puck into an open spot in the cage for his third goal of the season.
Holden's second tally and fourth of the year was off a slap shot from the top of the slot that went off Dubnyk and dribbled across the goal line at 2:31 of the third period.
"He's been very impressive," Roy said of Holden. "He came to camp, and he played so well. I said, 'Hey, listen. You're going to start with us.' He's [was] very patient at the beginning of the year. He didn't play much, but lately he has had his opportunity and he's been taking advantage of it."
Holden's tallies were two of three goals scored by defensemen in the game, with Jan Hejda scoring the other on a slap shot from the right point midway through the first period. It is the second time this season that three goals by the Avalanche were scored from defensemen, with it also happening Dec. 16 against Dallas.
Prior to this season, the last time Colorado had three goals from defensemen in the same game was Nov. 26, 2011 versus Edmonton.
STASTNY MAKES RETURN
Paul Stastny made his return to the Avalanche lineup after missing two games with a leg injury, and it didn't take him long to get on the boxscore.
He had two first-period assists and helped the Avalanche jump out to an early 3-0 lead.
"They had a good start," Roy said of Stastny's line. "They were moving the puck well. They had a good jump. That was the exact performance we needed from these guys, and they offered it."
Stastny was one of the hottest players in the league before injuring his leg Jan. 11 at Minnesota. Before missing time, he had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his previous five games and had 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in his previous 14 contests.
VARLAMOV TIES FRANCHISE RECORD
With a 27-save performance and his 24th win of the season, Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov tied the franchise record for consecutive decision without a regulation loss.
The Avs goalie is 11-0-5 in his last 17 games (16 starts) and is now tied with Peter Budaj for the longest streak without a regulation loss in franchise history. Budaj went 16 games (13-0-3) without losing in regulation from Feb. 24 to April 5, 2007.
Varlamov's last regulation loss was Dec. 10 versus Phoenix, and he entered Saturday's game with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage during the stretch.
The Russian netminder has now won his last four starts and is 8-0-1 in his last nine games.
DUCHENE BREAKS OUT OF DROUGHT
Matt Duchene threw the monkey off his back Saturday night as he celebrated his first goal of 2014.
Duchene's tally was his first since Dec. 19 and ended a 13-game goalless drought.
While it had been over four weeks since the Avalanche center had scored a goal, Duchene was still contributing offensively with nine assists in that time.
Duchene scored his 17th of the season after Nick Holden's shot went wide and caromed around the boards. From a tough angle below the right circle, Duchene fired a wrist shot that beat Dubnyk short side and over the left shoulder.
The tally ended up being the game winner.
It was safe to say that Nashville goalie Devan Dubnyk had played some of his best hockey of his career against the Avalanche. He entered Saturday's game with an 8-4-1 record, one shutout, a 2.03 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage in 14 career games versus Colorado.
The Avs got the best of Dubnyk on Saturday as they jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and held on for a 5-4 win. Among Colorado's first period tallies were goals from Jan Hejda and Gabriel Landeskog just 38 seconds apart.
Colorado extended its lead to 5-1 with Holden and Duchene scoring in the first 6:31 of the third period.
"I think we had some bodies in front of him," said Cody McLeod of Dubnyk after the contest. "Holden had a great game (two goals, one assist), and we were just shooting pucks. When he was in Edmonton, he always played well against us, and I think we got the better of him tonight."
Dubnyk was playing in his first game with Nashville after being traded from Edmonton on Wednesday. He had spent his first five seasons with the Oilers.