Last game, the Avalanche pulled out a dirty win against the Carolina Hurricanes on the wings of Semyon Varlamov, skating away with a 5-3 victory despite getting outshot 60-27.
Tonight, they held their opponent to slightly fewer shots - but once again, managed to pull off a win on the back of their goaltender, earning a 5-4 shootout victory despite falling 37-27 in shots during active play.
Ironically enough, Colorado would open up scoring with a goal by none other than Matt Duchene - whom many believed to be on his way out the door last night due to some miscommunication regarding a dead trade from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
With just a minute left in the first period, Tyson Barrie fired a shot at Michal Neuvirth from the point. Nathan MacKinnon would take advantage of a clean pad rebound, passing the puck over to Duchene for an easy goal on a wide-open net.
From there, the game was incredibly back-and-forth.
First, Philadelphia would open up scoring in the second period with a goal from veteran Valtteri Filppula, who took advantage of a pass from behind the net by Travis Konecny just over a minute into the period.
That would be followed a few minutes later by a power-play goal from Claude Giroux, putting Philadelphia up by a goal - but before the middle 20 was up, both Blake Comeau and Mikko Rantanen would score less than a minute apart (Comeau on a short-handed opportunity and Rantanen on the man advantage) to regain the lead heading into the final frame.
Jakub Voracek would evade Varlamov less than five minutes into the third period, bringing the game to a 3-3 tie, then goals from both Nail Yakupov and Dale Weise in those first 10 minutes of the period would keep the game close and force extra minutes.
No one managed to take advantage in the 3-v-3 overtime period, which led to a shootout; after both Rantanen and MacKinnon scored on Neuvirth in the skills competition, Colorado managed to squeak out their third straight victory.
Although Varlamov posted just a .892 save percentage in the game, it’s worth pointing out that once again, Colorado managed to win a game despite getting outshot.
This is what was missing last year - in addition, of course, to about 50 other things. But Pickard was new to the league, and certainly new to starting; with confidence in Bernier behind Varlamov and the ability to steal some of these games where the offense falls behind the opponent, it’s much easier to envision the Avalanche pulling off a winning season.
Also, credit where credit is due; Nail Yakupov’s goal was his fourth of the season, bringing him to one goal higher than he managed last year in 27 fewer games (and counting). He’s got seven points in 13 appearances, which is promising - even though his game still has glaring holes, some of which were evident when he wasn’t scoring Saturday night.
As the season progresses, he’ll be arguably the most interesting case to watch. Rantanen and MacKinnon are obviously elite, fans have seen Landeskog play well, Jost is just a rookie, and the back end is a work in progress. But Yakupov put up just one season meeting expectations before his numbers started to dwindle off more each year, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what needs to be done to get back the player that went first overall five years ago. Edmonton did a number on him, and he’s now on his eighth head coach (!) in six NHL seasons.
His poor plays make for plenty of frustration, but some TLC and attention to detail could revive his game - especially if he sticks around.
It’s hard to win games when you’re getting outshot.
Credit to the Avalanche for looking revived this season, but they’ll be playing tired tomorrow. If they continue to allow shots to bleed back to net, Sunday’s game could go much differently.