DALLAS — Some thoughts after Colorado’s 3-2 overtime win over the Stars here in Dallas, featuring the first appearance of Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov since his arrest on Wednesday:
• For a guy who had to be mentally exhausted after two days of dealing with the criminal justice system — and probably physically drained after spending Wednesday night in jail — Varlamov looked composed, relaxed and completely in control while stopping 27-of-29 shots.
It likely helped that his teammates took it to the Stars early, building up a 13-1 shot advantage in the first before letting Varlamov get a couple touches late in the period. After that, he got into a nice rhythm in the second, getting a good look at each Dallas attempt — mostly from distance — and took care of his rebounds.
The 25-year-old Russian was completely fooled on Dallas’ two third period goals, but both were high-end chances. Tyler Seguin’s wrister to tie it up was world-class — not many guys would have gotten a piece of that one. Still, this had to be his best frame of the night as the Stars took control of the game and the space down low. He rejected several premium chances from in tight, showing off his lateral movement to rob Jamie Benn late and then stoning Antoine Roussel on two bids from the slot in the final minute to keep the score knotted at two.
The overall effort was more workmanlike than spectacular, but it said a lot about the resilience of Varlamov, who ran his record to 8-1-0 with the win.
• Playing that first game in front of a sparse, low-energy crowd in Dallas might have been the best thing for Varlamov. Stars fans let him have it when the starting goalies were flashed on the big screen, and there was a smattering of boos each of the first two times he handled the puck. After that? Nothing. Some guy who was shown on screen wearing a Blackhawks t-shirt probably got it worse.
• Not sure what started the fight off the draw following Seguin’s equalizer, but it appeared that Dallas’ Alex Chiasson was caught completely off guard when Gabe Landeskog dropped the gloves and jumped him.
On the surface, it was an incredibly stupid decision on the part of Colorado’s captain because it put his team on the penalty kill with just under four minutes remaining in a tied game. But the speculation up in the press box–and it’s just speculation–was that Chiasson might have mentioned Varlamov’s problems, prompting Landeskog to stick up for his teammate. Didn’t get a chance to ask him about it after the game, but if that’s what it was, then you have to respect the decision. It would say a lot about him as a leader as well as the support this team is ready to give the troubled stopper.
• Here’s what Varlamov had to say to the media after the game:
“Well, you know what, I think the team played unbelievable today for me. We played well all three periods, and of course Dallas played a little bit more aggressive in the third period. We were waiting for that. We were battling all three periods and we scored in overtime. It was another big win for us and another big win for me.”
“I think I am the luckiest guy in the world because I play in the NHL and I play for this team. I’ve got such good teammates, so I don’t think about what’s happening. Like I said before, no comments on that, so I think I felt very comfortable today and the team and I played a good game.”
• Here are the key postgame quotes from Colorado coach Patrick Roy:
“The guys wanted to do well for [Varlamov]. They wanted to play a strong game in front of him, and I thought that was a great game from our team. We showed that we’re a family and we stick together and we work hard together.”
“Honestly, we have our guy. In coaching sometimes you have to take decisions, and we took one. Tonight there was a goalie that we were comfortable to make that decision, and honestly it was an outstanding performance from our team. The first period should never have finished 1-0, we should have been up at least 3-0. [Kari] Lehtonen was outstanding. He might want to get the second goal back, but I think the reason why they picked up a point is because of him. He kept them in the game long enough for them to come back in the third because it could have been a three, four or five-nothing game.”
• Nice that one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time took a moment to compliment the play of Lehtonen. He was brilliant early on, especially on a pair of Nathan MacKinnon chances in the crease, but he was just getting warmed up. Check out this sprawling pad stop on John Mitchell–you might not see a better save this year. You’ve got to love Lehtonen’s refusal to give up on the play (and the reaction of MacKinnon in the background).
This wasn’t Lehtonen’s best night of the season — he probably wants the OT winner from Paul Stastny back as well as well as Landeskog’s goal– but he’s been sensational this year. Forget the numbers: There aren’t five better puckstoppers in the world right now than this guy.