DENVER – Gabriel Landeskog couldn’t afford to call in sick with the Colorado Avalanche in the thick of the post-season chase.
So the dynamic rookie scorer suited up and found the perfect remedy for his cold.
Landeskog scored at 1:52 of overtime and the Avalanche beat the banged-up Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on Monday night to keep pace in a tightly congested Western Conference playoff picture.
Landeskog’s exhilaration from his first career OT winner was only fleeting. Once he returned to the dressing room, his strength was drained again.
“Got through the game,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”
Jamie McGinn and Kevin Porter also scored for the surging Avalanche, who have won four of five to move into the eighth and final playoff spot.
“We’re in playoff mode already, and we’ve been in playoff mode the last couple of weeks,” Landeskog said. “We just have to keep it going.”
Francois Beauchemin and Teemu Selanne had the goals for the Ducks, a team that was rolling along until a recent slide. Anaheim has dropped six of eight to tumble even further out of the post-season picture.
And maybe even completely out of it.
“This was our season,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We had to win this game.”
Semyon Varlamov made sure they didn’t.
The young Russian goaltender stopped 38 shots to improve to 7-2 in his last nine starts. His recent success is not surprising to Boudreau, who saw this type of potential out of Varlamov when they were both with the Washington Capitals.
“When he’s on his game, he’s tough to beat because he’s so athletic,” Boudreau said. “He’s good.”
The winning goal was set up by a turnover in the Ducks end. Matt Hunwick stole the puck and quickly dished it over to Landeskog, who drilled it past Jonas Hiller as the Avalanche improved to 14-4 this season in games that go beyond regulation.
Hiller wanted another crack at Landeskog’s slap shot.
“It was not a smart way to play it,” he said.
Porter scored with 6:47 remaining when he stuck out his stick and redirected Jan Hejda’s slap shot past Hiller for his first goal since Dec. 29.
It looked as if that might just hold up, given the way Varlamov was playing in net.
But the Ducks had a quick response, with Selanne sending a shot into the corner of the net on a power play. With that score, Selanne moved ahead of childhood idol Jari Kurri for 19th on the NHL scoring list with 1,399 points.
Not that he was in a celebratory mood.
“That doesn’t really make me happy right now,” Selanne said. “The win was the only goal we had. We couldn’t do it.”
Anaheim tied it at 1 in the waning seconds of the second period when Beauchemin stuck out his stick and tipped the puck past Varlamov. It was the defenceman’s first goal since Jan. 18.
Up until then, Varlamov was turning back everything sent his way.
McGinn gave the Avalanche the lead midway through the opening period, sending a wrist shot between the legs of a Ducks defenceman and by a screened Hiller.
The gritty forward has played well since being acquired from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline. McGinn now has five goals and two assists in seven games wearing the burgundy and blue sweater.
After McGinn’s goal, the goalies stole the show for the rest of the period.
Varlamov made a save with his right pad on Kyle Palmieri’s wraparound shot from behind the goal. Not to be outdone, Hiller stonewalled Steve Downie at the doorstep of the goal.
Lately, Hiller has been logging plenty of time in the net. This was his club-record 29th straight start. The old mark of 23 was set by Guy Hebert and tied by Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who’s now with Colorado.
Ducks star Corey Perry was sidelined with a sore right shoulder, ending his string of 272 straight games. The right winger was dinged up in Dallas on Saturday when he slid into the boards.
The last time Perry sat out was January 2009 when he served a four-game suspension for elbowing Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux. Perry hadn’t missed a game with an injury since 2008, when he sat out 12 games late in the season with a lacerated right quadriceps tendon.
Despite feeling sick, Landeskog laced up his skates and worked his way into the franchise record book. With a slap shot in the second period, the Swedish player broke the team mark for most shots by a rookie in a season. Landeskog moved past former Quebec Nordiques star Peter Stastny, who had 232 shots in 1980-81.
NOTES: Porter scored on his 26th birthday. …. The Avs won their first season series from the Ducks since 2006-07, going 3-1-0. … Anaheim had two players reach milestones; Saku Koivu played in his 1,000th game and captain Ryan Getzlaf in his 500th. Koivu is just the fifth Finnish-born player to reach that milestone.