Everything started out Tuesday night just like it always does with the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs fell behind early, displayed the energy of a corpse, committed some ghastly turnovers and trudged into the dressing room with heads down amid scattered boos from the even more scattered crowd at the Pepsi Center.
And then? And then, the Avs played like a desperate, playoff-hungry team and cruised to a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, skating off the ice with heads held high.
Tyson Barrie was your No. 1 star of the night, scoring the game-winning goal at 19:04 of the second period and assisting on the Avs' other two, by Gabe Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. It was just the kind of showing from the highly-paid core guys that first-year coach Jared Bednar has been waiting for, for quite a while now.
"Our core guys drove the bus tonight," Bednar said.
The Avs held a team meeting the other day in which Bednar made what one player said was a very passionate appeal to those top core guys, appealing to their pride and professionalism in what has been a season from hell. The message, at least for one night, appeared to get through, as the Avs' best players were indeed their best players.
Barrie acknowledged after the game how tough it's been for players like him, players making more than $5 million a year, to look themselves in the mirror and feel good about themselves. For however many times the Avs win games the rest of the season, you can expect tinges of apologetic guilt and regret like Barrie had. But what's done is done, and the only attitude he and anyone else can have is: Nowhere to go but up.
The turning point of this game? That's easy. They were the 46 seconds of the game from the 18:18 mark to the 19:04 mark of the second period, when Landeskog and Barrie potted goals behind Carolina's Eddie Lack. Landeskog, on the power play, tipped Barrie's point shot for the tying goal and Barrie wristed a shot from the right side to the far post.
Nathan MacKinnon, who was excellent all night, was rewarded with an empty-netter at the end. Imagine that: the Avs sealing off a win with an empty-netter. Other important contributors to the win included the much-maligned Carl Soderberg, whom Bednar singled out for praise for his hard work on the forecheck and driving the net in general, and newcomer Sven Andrighetto, who assisted on Barrie's goal.
Calvin Pickard, who allowed a soft goal to Justin Faulk at 6:08 of the first, settled down and finished with 24 saves for his first win since Feb. 17, at Carolina. Yes, folks, the Avs actually swept a season series against at least one team this season.
Here are a couple of minutes of video shot by yours truly from the victorious dressing room, starting off with the captain: