The Colorado Avalanche entered Wednesday night’s contest against the visiting Dallas Stars looking to put an end to their four game skid.
For two teams set to face each other a whole lot more in the coming years – as realignment takes hold – there was little civility in the contest. There was hitting, there was spearing, there was even some fighting. When the dust settled, Colorado had come out victorious, squeaking a win out against a tough opponent.
As is par for the course this season, Colorado’s opponent found the scoreboard first. While it wasn’t in the opening minutes, early goals from Jaromir Jagr and Trevor Daley put Colorado back on their heels in the opening frame.
And, as is the Avalanche way, Colorado was forced to try and comeback.
Colorado tied the game a few minutes later when Gabriel Landeskog scooped up a Stars turnover, drove the net, and finished off his own rebound to grab his second shorthanded goal in as many games.
Things got chippy after that, resulting in a fight between Eric Nystrom and none other than Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda.
“I just tried to defend my teammates. Then we started to dance a little bit and he asked me to go so I didn’t have another option,” said Hejda, who got caught in an awkward spot with one glove on and one glove off for the tilt.
“We both got stuck. It’s kind of European style right?” Hejda joked after the game. “I feel like I hold him pretty good, even in the glove. I didn’t want to just let him go and take a glove off so I just keep fighting with the glove.”
The shift in momentum was enough to get Dallas on the board again.
Lately this is the point when the will of the Colorado Avalanche has been destroyed and the game gets away from them. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday night.
“We talked during intermission. We’ve got nothing to lose. We’ve got to go out there and play as hard as we can and put pucks in the net and hopefully things happen,” said fourth line forward Chuck Kobasew.
Sick of losing, Ryan O’Reilly turned on the jets in the third, tearing down the ice and sniping one through Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen short side to tie the game once more.
As the minutes ticked down and overtime loomed large, Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick fired a shot on net. The puck hit Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas in the face, dropping down into the crease and away from the collapsing skater.
A hero emerged as Chuck Kobasew chipped it past Lehtonen and in for the game winner with just under three and a half minutes remaining.
“I think Matt did a good job of getting the puck towards the net. [It was] a little bit of an unfortunate play for them. I think it hit Robidas up near the face and it just sat there. Had an opportunity for me to whack at it and was able to kind of sneak it in short side,” said Kobasew.
“It feels great to get a win. The last ten days or so hasn’t been fun around here. Hopefully now that we’ve got a win under our belt we can get our confidence back.”
The fourth liners ruled the night for Colorado, combining for two goals and three assists. Olver finished with two points (1g, 1a) and a plus-three. Kobasew finished with a goal, an assist, and a plus-four on the night.
“We just talked, ‘let’s keep it simple, bang bodies and put pucks on the net’ and we got rewarded,” said Kobasew. “We generated a lot of chances. We were getting into that paint that we hadn’t been doing for a while and pucks were laying around there and we got rewarded.”
“It was a great game for those guys. It’s nice to get contributions from role players. Chucky was plus-four tonight, scored a big goal there at the end. Mark Olver had a great response after sitting out I-don’t-know-how-many-games as a healthy scratch but he certainly showed a lot of desperation and passion in his game tonight,” said Head Coach Joe Sacco.
After the fight with Hejda, Nystrom actually gave him a thumbs up for his efforts while they were both in the sin bin. The bout was the second of Hejda’s career.
“First was against [Jordin] Tootoo. This one was against this guy. I just became a tough guy,” laughed Hejda.
What do you think? Like the turnaround? How do you feel about Hejda fighting?