LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Peter Mueller’s return to the Colorado Avalanche and Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s return to his old playoff form have given the Colorado Avalanche reason to believe they can do some heavy damage to the rest of the NHL down the stretch.
Mueller had the go-ahead goal in the fifth game of his inspirational comeback from a concussion, Giguere made 25 saves and the Avalanche also got goals from Cody McLeod and Gabriel Landeskog in a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
Mueller put the Avalanche ahead 2-1 with 1:05 left in the second, tipping in a 45-foot wrist shot from the slot by T.J. Galiardi for his third goal since returning from the career-threatening concussion that had sidelined him since April 4, 2010. Mueller scored Colorado’s first two goals Wednesday night in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers.
Ten of Mueller’s 51 NHL goals have been winners. He had a career-best 22 goals as a rookie in 2007-08 with Phoenix.
“We’re really happy for him. He’s been through a tough battle,” Giguere said. “None of us can even imagine what that’s like. But he’s having fun right now, which he didn’t have for the last two years. And it’s nice to see that.”
Giguere, who led the Anaheim Ducks to a Stanley Cup title in 2007 and was the playoff MVP in 2003, has emerged as a No. 1 goalie again after starting the season as Semyon Varlamov’s backup. In Giguere’s last 11 starts, he is 8-2-1.
“Giggy’s a pro and he’s a competitor. He gets in there and gives you a chance to win every night,” Colorado defenceman Shane O’Brien said. “He’s been great with Varly, and now he’s playing a bit more and taking advantage of it. There’s a reason why he won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy and why he’s played as long as he has. He’s huge in the dressing room, he’s huge on the bus and in the plane, and he’s huge in net for us.”
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick came up short on his 26th birthday after stopping 28 shots. Colorado’s other goal was by Gabriel Landeskog on a power play with 1:57 to play. The Kings have scored fewer than three goals in 20 of Quick’s 21 losses this season, including overtimes and shootouts.
“I know he’s frustrated, obviously, that we’re not scoring goals and supporting him,” Justin Williams said. “I’m sure he’ll never say that, but we have to do that for him—as well as play good defence.”
The regulation loss was only the second by the Kings in 16 games since Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray as coach (8-2-6). The other one was a 1-0 defeat against Columbus in which Quick faced a season-low 18 shots.
“It was definitely a playoff-style game,” O’Brien said. “They’re a good team and they’ve been playing extremely well, so we knew that we had to play well defensively. All year we’ve been stressing that, and we’re getting better as a team. Giggy’s been great in net for us and we’re playing hard in front of him. There’s no secret to winning in this league. You’ve got to play good solid defence, and we’re doing that right now.”
The Avalanche had a 10-3 advantage in shots on net when Los Angeles forward Dustin Penner received a double-minor at 12:02 of the first period for cutting Cody McLeod with a high stick. But the Kings’ vaunted penalty-killing unit kept the puck away from Quick while Penner was in the box, and Kyle Quincey’s interference infraction nullified the final 49 seconds of the four-minute power play. In fact, Colorado didn’t get another shot the rest of the period.
The Kings weren’t doing any better in that department, getting only one shot on net over the final 15:21 of the opening period. They didn’t get another one until Giguere stopped Dustin Brown’s point-blank attempt from 10 feet in the left circle and Anze Kopitar converted the rebound into a wide-open net at 5:34 of the second for his team-high 15th goal.
“It’s hard to get shots when you don’t have everyone playing the right way,” Brown said. “It’s going to take 20 guys. Tonight I don’t think we had 20. I’m sure it will be clear on video, but we need more. Tonight we had some good lines, but you need four lines if you want to win games in this league.”
Colorado tied it at 13:35 of the second with McLeod’s third goal of the season. Defenceman Stefan Eliott was skating with the puck about 15 feet from his own blue line when he spotted McLeod breaking toward the Kings’ line and hit him with aperfect tape-to-tape pass as he entered the zone a step ahead of defencemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. Quick backed up and McLeod stuffed the puck between his pads before crashing into the net.
“It was a great pass, and that’s what Ellie does. He’s an offensively gifted guy, and he sees guys who are open,” O’Brien said. “He made a great pass to Macker and then Macker did the rest. He went to the net hard, put the puck in and put Quick in. It was a huge goal for us.”
Notes: This was the third time Quick has played on his birthday in the NHL. In 2010, he beat Buffalo 4-3 in a shootout at Staples Center with 26 saves. In 2009 at Colorado, he beat the Avalanche 6-5 with 36 saves. No goalie has ever had a shutout on his birthday in a Kings uniform. … The Avalanche are 6 for 46 on the power play over their last 17 games. They came in with a league-best 25.0 power play percentage on the road (17 for 68). … D Jan Hejda was back in Colorado lineup after missing Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime win at San Jose. He hit the left post with a 60-foot slap shot from the left point with 9:20 left in the first period. … The Kopitar-Brown-Justin Williams line has 10 goals and 13 assists in the last seven games.