Bounce-Back Comeback for Avs in Columbus
Colorado's three goals came off shots that went off Columbus players
The Colorado Avalanche will gladly take the bounces, if they go its way.
It wasn't pretty, but the Avs used hard work—and some fortuitous bounces—to erase a two-goal third-period deficit and grab a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
Colorado is now 14-6 in overtime games this season and sports a 7-1 record in road games that go past 60 minutes. The seven wins break the franchise record for road OT wins in a single season, set in 2002-03 and 2003-04.
Columbus led 2-0 after the second period, but Colorado didn't give up and continued to press and create scoring chances. Those chances came from throwing pucks on net and getting some bounces go their way. The Avalanche scored three goals off shots that went off Blue Jackets players and beat goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
"We talked about that going into the third. Just how we can't find excuses. There is nothing to blame," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog, who got credit for two of the goals. "Our second period, they certainly took over. We went into that third, and we could have easily packed it in and went home. That's not the way we play the game, and that is not the way we are in the dressing room. We showed some character in third, and it paid off."
The winning goal came after the Jackets took a penalty to give the Avs their first power play of the night with 2:21 left in overtime. Tyson Barrie passed the puck down to Landeskog at the right circle, and Landeskog quickly attempted to move it to the other side for Nathan MacKinnon.
The puck never got there as it instead went of the Blue Jackets' Jack Johnson and over the goal line at 4:27 of OT to give the Avalanche its 48th win of the season.
Landeskog's first tally, which tied the contest at 2-2 with 4:57 left in the third stanza, was the result of good passing by Paul Stastny and MacKinnon. Stastny dropped a pass off for MacKinnon at the right circle, and the rookie made his way around the face-off dot before throwing the puck toward the net. The puck deflected off Landeskog's stick and the foot of Dalton Prout before settling into the back of the cage.
"Nathan, Pauly and Landy made a really great play," Avs coach Patrick Roy said. "It was a great job by Landy to drive that net and score that goal. We were back in the game."
Colorado began its comeback with Malone scoring at 9:46. From below the goal line at the left corner, Malone threw the puck to the front of the net and it caromed off Nick Foligno and past Bobrovsky.
"The goal that Malone scored was a big one for us," Roy said. "He used his speed going into the corner, put it in front, hit their guy, and went in. Sometimes you have bad bounces, sometimes you have great bounces; that one went on our side."
Landeskog said the way the Avs played in the final period will help the team going into the postseason that begins on April 16. The Avs have already clinched a playoff berth with a win last Saturday against the Sharks.
"That is the way we're successful. We're chipping away," Landeskog said. "I think we're doing the little things, and everybody is chipping in… Certainly, it is something we can build off of and grow on going into the playoffs."
The victory secured Colorado one of the top three spots in the Central Division, having the team avoid getting into the postseason via a wild card. The Avs now have 102 points, 13 more than the Minnesota Wild, who is fourth in the division with 89 points and has six games remaining.
It also extended the Avalanche's lead for home-ice advantage in the first round.
Colorado sits in second place in the division and now has three points more than third-place Chicago, which has 99. The Avs have also played one fewer games than the Blackhawks and hold the first tiebreaker, regulation and overtime wins (44-37)
Getting that home-ice advantage is something the Avs are aiming for in their final seven games of the regular season.
"If we get it, absolutely. If we don't get it, we couldn’t care less," Landeskog said of the importance of getting home ice. "It's kind of the way we see it. We are certainly working hard to get it, and playing at Pepsi Center and playing in front of our amazing home fans is certainly something we want to do for four of the seven (playoff) games."
Patrick Roy began Tuesday's game with his new line combinations of Ryan O'Reilly—Nathan MacKinnon—Jamie McGinn and Gabriel Landeskog—Paul Stastny—John Mitchell, but when it came to 'crunch time' the Avalanche head coach went with what worked.
Down 2-0 entering the third period, Roy switched MacKinnon and Mitchell to help generate scoring chances with players that already have chemistry.
The change worked.
Landeskog scored the tying goal with 4:57 left in regulation as he tipped a shot by MacKinnon while stationing himself in front of the crease. Stastny also received an assist as he passed the puck to MacKinnon before the rookie fired it from the right circle.
"I just felt that they play so well together," Roy said of moving MacKinnon to Landeskog's and Stastny's line. "I thought they had a good game. I thought he (MacKinnon) had a good game playing center, but I thought with Landy and Pauly they are more dangerous. [MacKinnon] brings so much speed to that line, and that is how we scored that goal."
MacKinnon had played with Stastny and Landeskog for much of the season, while Mitchell had previously seen time with O'Reilly and McGinn during injury and special-team situations. Mitchell played with O'Reilly and McGinn for most of Saturday's win against San Jose after Matt Duchene got hurt in the first minute of the game.
Roy made the original line changes Monday after practice to see what might work when the playoffs begin in nearly two weeks and to fill the void left by Duchene, who will miss roughly four weeks with a knee injury.
RUSSIANS FACE OFF
Two of the top goaltenders in the league squared off against one another for the first time since being teammates for the host country at this year's Winter Olympics.
The Avalanche's Semyon Varlamov and the Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky split time in net for Team Russia at the February Sochi Games, but it was Varlamov that came out with the win on Tuesday.
Both netminders played well as Varlamov made 24 saves while Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots.
Varlamov stopped all eight shots he faced in the third period and came up big several times after the Avs tied the game. One of his biggest saves was with 4:16 left when he denied a point-blank shot after the puck bounced to Mark Letestu at the front of the crease.
Bobrovsky had a breakout season last year for Columbus, winning the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the league, while Varlamov has had a tremendous 2013-14 campaign. Varlamov has 38 wins this season, just two shy of Patrick Roy's single-season franchise record from 2000-01 (40).
GUENIN'S COLUMBUS HOMECOMING
Nate Guenin is from the Pittsburgh area, but Columbus is also a special place for the Avalanche defenseman.
After two years of U.S. junior hockey with the Green Bay Gamblers, Guenin moved to the college ranks and played four seasons with Ohio State University in Columbus from 2002 to 2006. He played 151 games with the Buckeyes and tallied 53 points (six goals, 47 assists).
Guenin turned pro after college and played the next four seasons with the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh organizations before returning to Ohio's capital for the 2010-11 campaign.
He spent most of that season with Columbus' AHL minor-league affiliate in Springfield, but Guenin did play three games that year with the Blue Jackets.