After coming up short in their season opener, the Colorado Avalanche bounced back in front of their home crowd.
That win, however, has come at a steep cost.
In their first game since losing Steve Downie to a season-ending injury, the Avalanche try to make it two in a row Thursday night against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
While Colorado (1-1-0) couldn’t keep up Saturday in a 4-2 loss at Minnesota, getting back to the Pepsi Center made all the difference Tuesday. Gabriel Landeskog, David Jones and newcomer P.A. Parenteau each tallied third-period goals for the Avalanche, who held defending champion Los Angeles scoreless on six power-play opportunities in a 3-1 victory.
“It was unbelievable,” said Landeskog, the team’s 20-year-old captain. “I think this was the best crowd I’ve played in front of at the Pepsi Center. It just feels great. To be away for so long and to come back and to see so many fans here and how loud they were and how into it, I think it felt like they missed us just as much as we missed them.”
Though Colorado was in high spirits after Tuesday’s win, the mood surely changed after learning of Downie’s status.
Acquired from Tampa Bay last February, Downie tore his ACL against the Kings. The sixth-year forward compiled 13 points in his first 20 games with the Avalanche last season and had an assist in the opener.
While Downie will surely be missed, further big efforts from Semyon Varlamov could make his absence easier to overcome. Varlamov, who stopped 31 of 35 shots against the Wild, made 28 saves Tuesday, improving to 12-3-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average over his last 16 home games dating to last season.
“Varly was kicking just like he was in Minnesota,” Landeskog told the team’s official website. “He’s been huge, and we just want to try to help him in front.”
Varlamov went 2-2-0 with a 2.00 GAA and one shutout against the Blue Jackets (1-1-1) last season, but both those losses came at home. The Avalanche, who were outscored 7-2 in those defeats, had gone 9-1-0 over the previous 10 matchups in this series.
After finishing with an NHL-worst 65 points last season, Columbus looked strong in its first two games, winning 3-2 in a shootout Saturday at Nashville before a 4-3 shootout loss to Detroit two days later.
The Blue Jackets, though, took a step back Wednesday with a 5-1 loss at Phoenix. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin gave his team an early 1-0 lead but Steve Mason – hoping to rebound from a dismal 2011-12 – went on to allow five unanswered goals in his season debut.
“There were a few good things, but there was lots of things that we have to address and repair,” said coach Todd Richards, whose team was outshot 42-26. “Some of it came down to a pure will, a want to compete and battle. We’ve had it and when we lose it is when we become undisciplined and make some bad mistakes.
“We unraveled. The first two games, we dealt with the adversity, but the way the game was starting to turn out was disappointing.”
Richards is expected to go back to Sergei Bobrovsky in this game. The third-year goaltender, acquired from Philadelphia this offseason, has compiled a 2.31 GAA in two starts.
In his only appearance against the Avalanche, Bobrovsky turned away 25 shots in a 4-2 win Oct. 11, 2010, while with the Flyers.