DENVER – Patrick Roy returned to the Colorado Avalanche to restore the glory years he helped forge, and he’s enjoying the ride with a young team playing at a high level.
Nick Holden scored two goals, Ryan O’Reilly had a goal and an assist and the Avalanche rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3 on Sunday night.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 31 shots and Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie also scored for the Avalanche, who have won two straight.
Roy helped lead Colorado to two Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001 as the goaltender with a dynamic offence in front of him. Now as the coach, he’s bringing back memories of that era.
“You ask me what reminds me of the Avalanche of the past, that’s the type of hockey we were playing,” he said. “And that’s the way we’re playing right now.”
Those championship teams also featured goal-scoring defencemen, something lacking from last year’s squad. Colorado’s blue-liners had just five goals in 48 games a year ago.
The Avalanche got four goals from its defence Sunday, including Johnson’s first in his return from a two-game suspension for a slash on New York Islanders centre Frans Nielsen three weeks ago.
“It’s tough sitting out, and to be able to come back and contribute and help the team win is fun,” he said.
Johnson scored the go-ahead goal at 16:05 of the third when he pinched in to steal the puck and then sent a low shot past 6-foot-7 goalie Ben Bishop from along the boards.
“I know (Bishop) from St. Louis, and I shot at him a lot,” Johnson said. “He’s obviously a big guy and he doesn’t give you a lot of room. Sometimes, big guys like that, you throw it at their feet and they don’t see it.”
Nate Thompson had two goals, Tom Pyatt also scored and Bishop finished with 29 saves for the Lightning, who had four penalties in the last 21:28 of the game.
“The penalties killed us,” centre Alex Killorn said. “Six minutes where we didn’t play in their zone.”
Holden tied it with a power-play goal at 5:12 of the third. It was Colorado’s sixth power-play goal in the past three games.
Holden notched his second two-goal game when he scored into an empty net with 53 seconds remaining. Paul Stastny added another with 6.3 seconds left.
“This is a tough one,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Tied game with under five minutes to go. I thought we were getting points from this one. We let them slip out of our hands.”
Thompson has eight goals, and four of them have come in a pair of two-goal games. He got his first one Sunday when he beat Varlamov on the short side 6:40 into the second period to tie it at 2.
Later in the period, he sent a wrister at Varlamov that settled in the crease, and then he skated through to knock it in at 17:37.
The Lightning missed an opportunity to move into second place in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference after Colorado’s late-game eruption.
“I think we’re going through a little bit of a rough patch,” Thompson said. “A couple breakdowns there at the end and they end up in the back of the net, unfortunately.”
Colorado stayed within three points of St. Louis in the Central Division with the win. The Blues beat Phoenix on Sunday.
The game was scoreless for most of the first period despite plenty of chances. Lightning centre Vladislav Namestnikov had two of them and Colorado centre Matt Duchene was stopped on a breakaway.
Tampa Bay finally cashed in when Pyatt scored at 16:49 of the first. Barrie tied it 30 seconds later with a shot between Bishop’s legs, and O’Reilly gave Colorado a 2-1 lead with his 23rd of the season 1:42 later.
NOTES: Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon finished with two assists. … Tampa Bay C Valtteri Filppula missed his fourth straight game with a non-displaced fracture in his right ankle. … MacKinnon extended his points streak to 11 games. It’s the longest streak by a rookie since Stastny had one of 20 games during the 2006-07 season.