Two teams heading into the final week before the trade deadline in search of momentum collided in Denver on a snowy Monday evening.
On one end of the ice was the Vegas Golden Knights, winners of only three games in their last ten and clinging on to the final playoff spot in the Pacific division. On the other end was the equally-struggling Colorado Avalanche, who have only seen one victory in their last ten and just four in the calendar year of 2019.
In a game which saw 78 total shots, though, the Avalanche stood tall and earned their first ever regulation win over the Golden Knights in a 3-0 final score.
The first period saw a fast and frenetic pace, with 26 total shots. The high shot volume resulted in Tyson Jost’s first goal since his return from the AHL several contests ago, coming on a great shot at 6:36 during a hard-working shift from Jost that surprised Vegas goaltender Malcom Subban.
The Avalanche were just getting warmed up, as they received that spark and secondary scoring they were looking for in Andrew Agozzino — who had just been called up from the AHL’s Eagles for the contest.
Agozzino has played in the Avalanche system since the 2014-15 season, but it was his first career NHL tally off of a laser feed at 5:47 from Gabe Landeskog.
Matt Calvert added an insurance goal at 6:53 in the third period, after a lengthy review to determine if the puck had bounced off his glove before going into the net. The officials ruled that after bouncing off his hand the puck then made contact with his stick, so the good goal stood on the ice — and with that, the Avalanche finally started to turn things around.
Finally a win on home ice after losing six-straight, and an even better result on the back of a superb 40-save shutout performance from Semyon Varlamov.
Head coach Jared Bednar pulled a big surprise and finally put his lineup into a blender, including completely breaking up the top trio and placing each of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog on different lines. The power play units were mixed up as well — and while the Avalanche are still in search of their first power play goal in the month of February, the rest of the change-ups paid some clear dividends.
Another curiosity is the fact that it took the Avalanche this long to really begin using call-ups from the AHL to look for a shakeup within the lineup.
Typically, fourth line players don’t make the difference between winning and losing — but both Dominic Toninato and Andrew Agozzino scoring their first career goals were a catalyst for the last two Avalanche victories, so look for more potential responsibilities to come for the team’s unexpected new heroes.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov continued to find his groove again with a third straight solid effort. He has now started 14 of the last 16 games, and the upcoming back-to-back this weekend might be the only occasion Philipp Grubauer will see the net any time soon, if at all.
The Avalanche look to build on this performance in their next contest — which is also at home — in a rematch with the Winnipeg Jets at 7pm MT on Wednesday.