Encouraged by Avalanche coach Patrick Roy to "have fun," captain Gabe Landeskog was greeted with a funny-looking toy helmet in his locker-room stall Monday morning, and after the ensuing night game against the Winnipeg Jets at the Pepsi Center, Landeskog slapped a team logo on it and put it to good use.
Landeskog presented goalie Semyon Varlamov with the team's first "hard hat," a tradition that will continue with each Avalanche victory. Varlamov made 33 saves in a 3-2 overtime triumph that ended with center Matt Duchene scoring a fluke goal with 2:27 remaining in sudden death of a chippy game between the Central Division foes.
"Now next win, Varly will give it out," Landeskog said of the plastic helmet that looks more like a German army helmet. "A lot of teams do it around the league, and I found it in my stall this morning. Why not give it out to a deserving guy? We obviously know it's a team game, but it gives us something to laugh about. It's such an ugly hat, you know you're going to be embarrassed to wear it the whole (postgame) interview."
Duchene also was deserving after scoring his 21st goal to give Colorado its 89th point with 16 games remaining. He slapped at the puck after a Jets defenseman shot it off him and the Avs improved to 1-1 on their four-game homestand.
"I got in the corner and just, you know, was able to beat Byfuglien out of the corner and he kind of grabbed my elbow and I lost the puck and I don't think Montoya was really ready for it and it came back to me and I kind of just whacked at it and I didn't really know it went in, I just heard the crowd cheer. It was a nice bounce and nice game-winning goal" said Duchene.
The win came at a cost. For the second consecutive game, an Avalanche player was injured on his first shift. Center Paul Stastny suffered a back ailment Saturday against St. Louis. Monday night, right winger P.A. Parenteau went down with a knee injury against Winnipeg and will be lost for the rest of the regular season. Roy said more will be known Tuesday.
Given that the Avs are carrying only 12 forwards, and Stastny didn't dress and Parenteau didn't return, they had just 10 for nearly the entire game against the Jets, using three lines to Winnipeg's four.
More than that, the power play was powerless without Stastny and Parenteau. The Avs went 0-of-6 over 12 minutes with the man advantage.
"We missed two guys that are key parts in our unit. We had different guys playing with different guys out there. They killed it really well. They forced us up ice. I mean, we had some great chances on the power play. Even though we weren't as smooth as we have been, I mean our power play has been outstanding lately. Even last game we didn't get one, but we were real good on it. We will get back on the ice in practice now with our new units and if those guys are both out next game we will move forward, but it happens" said Duchene.
It was 2-2 after the first two chippy periods. The Avs opened and closed the middle frame with goals, and John Mitchell had a hand in both. He scored the first on an intended centering pass to Nathan MacKinnon, and assisted on the second by winning an offensive-end faceoff to defenseman Andre Benoit. Benoit's slap shot with 12 seconds left in the period tied it, erasing the 2-1 lead the Jets built behind defenseman-turned-forward Dustin Byfuglien.
The 265-pound Byfuglien outmuscled Avs defenseman Jan Hejda for a rebound in the paint to produce his first goal, which came on the Jets' first power play, and he banked the puck off goalie Semyon Varlamov from behind the net less than two minutes later.
• Matt Duchene scored his fourth career overtime goal.
• Duchene's OT winner extended his career-best point streak to eight games (4g/8a).
• The Avalanche improved to 8-2 in overtime (.800%)…Only Anaheim (5-1, .833%) has a higher winning percentage in OT games this year.
• Semyon Varlamov stopped Jim Slater's penalty-shot attempt in the first period…Varlamov has now stopped 4-of-5 career penalty shots against (.800%).
• Slater's attempt was the first penalty shot against the Avalanche since March 6, 2012, when Minnesota's Devin Setoguchi scored against Varlamov here at Pepsi Center.
• Dustin Byfuglien tied his season high with two goals, his second multi-goal game of the year.