Semyon Varlamov was greeted by a big round of applause from his teammates as he entered the visiting room inside the United Center on Tuesday night.
The Avalanche had just beaten the Blackhawks in a 3-2 overtime victory, and they had their goaltender to thank for much of that.
"Outstanding. He's been outstanding all year," Tyson Barrie said of Varlamov. "Nothing that he does really surprises us anymore, he's been the backbone of this team. Hopefully he can keep that going because we need him."
The Avalanche entered Tuesday's game having already taken some hits to their roster. Paul Stastny didn't dress after suffering an injury against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Cory Sarich was a late scratch with a back injury, leaving the Avalanche with just 17 skaters to start the game. Then Erik Johnson missed most of the third period with what also appeared to be a back injury.
Colorado's three penalties in the first period didn't help their case either, at least, not on paper. Despite sending three players to the box — beginning with Johnson just 10 seconds into the game — and being outshot 13-9, the Avs finished the first 20 minutes with a 2-0 lead.
Special teams turned out to be a major factor on Tuesday night as well as the Avalanche scored two of their three goals on the power play. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, went 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
"Against a team like (the Blackhawks), it's a matter of finding a way to win a hockey game and that's what we did," head coach Patrick Roy said. "Our power play was outstanding, we had a lot of chances. Short-handed I thought we did really well. (The Blackhawks) had four power plays in the first 21 minutes, that gave them a lot of momentum, took a lot of shots in that period of time. It's the final way to win and that's what our guys did. I'm extremely proud of them."
After suffering a 7-2 loss to the Blackhawks just three weeks ago, the Avalanche came in hungry for a bounce-back game. That's just what they got as they recorded their second win over the Blackhawks this season.
"It's feeling pretty good right now to have that four points on the road against Minnesota and tonight," Varlamov said. "Those two games were pretty tough for us, but the guys did a great job. When we score first we play very well.
"Chicago never stops, they just keep playing. It doesn't matter if you're leading or if they're leading, they just keep playing. We scored two goals in the first period, we started this game very well and then just did a good job on the penalty killing. Guys blocked shots, guys played very well in front of me, it was really good."
At the end of the day, it was Varlamov the Avalanche had to thank. He faced 48 shots on goal — Corey Crawford faced just 26 — and was able to hold on in overtime to help his team earn two points against the Blackhawks.
"He's been like this since the start of the year. He's been outstanding," Roy said. "We rally around him and that was the type of performance we needed from our goalie to beat the Blackhawks.
"I always had confidence on him. I believed in him right from the get-go. He's been working hard and keeps working hard, he's young and he's strong. It's great to see him play right now."