On Oct. 5, 1999, a rookie forward named Alex Tanguay donned a Colorado Avalanche sweater and played in his first NHL game. 1,000 games later, he is again in the Mile High City. On Wednesday, the Avalanche honored Tanguay for reaching the millennial milestone; presenting him with the traditional silver stick in a ceremony prior to their contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The celebration continued n the game that followed, as the Avalanche used timely scoring and a sound defensive effort to top the high-powered Penguins 3-1.
After a scoreless first period, Tanguay’s longtime linemate with the Calgary Flames Jarome Iginla opened the scoring early in the second. 13 seconds into the middle frame, the 37-year-old rocketed a slapshot past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on the powerplay for his team-leading 20th tally of the season. He now has scored at least 20 goals in 16 different seasons.
Later in the period, Nathan MacKinnon put the Avalanche up by two. Standing in front of the net, the 19-year-old saw a Jan Hejda slapshot go off of his foot and into the net.
In the final frame, the Penguins would cut their deficit in half. Russian superstar Evgeni Malkin would steal the puck, before breaking into the zone and to the front of the net; and beating his country-mate and Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog would continue his torrid play, putting the Avalanche again up by two with five minutes remaining. He would undress rookie Penguins defenseman Derrick Pouliot, coming in on a partial breakaway and beating Fleury glove-side for his 17th of the season. Also assisting on the previous two goals, Landeskog’s three points would be enough to see him named the game’s first star. He now has 12 points in the past 10 games.
Varlamov would close the pillows the rest of the way to secure the victory. He would finish the game with 28 saves on 29 shots. Joey Hishon would play in his first NHL regular season game after playing in last year’s postseason. Jordan Caron would also make his Avalanche debut, having been acquired from the Boston Bruins on Monday.
With the win, the Avalanche now have 67 points on the season. They sit eight points behind the Minnesota Wild for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings with 18 games remaining.
“It’s a big win,” said MacKinnon of the victory. “Our goal is 28 more points. We have 18 games left and it’s going to be tight, but we feel we’re confident this month that we can get some wins.”