On Tour: Jonas Johansson’s crazy save steals show for rockin’ n’ rollin’ Avs

Mar 16, 2023, 10:28 PM | Updated: 11:03 pm
Jonas Johansson...
Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

“It’s all happening,” whispered band-aid/groupie Penny Lane into the ear of aspiring rock writer William Miller in the movie Almost Famous.

She may have been talking about being traded to Humble Pie for 50 bucks and a case of beer, or perhaps she had a premonition of the Colorado Avalanche’s late-season surge. The winning ways of Colorado on their Canada tour have given hope to all in Rocky Mountain hockey faithful that a Stanley Cup encore is a standing ovation away.

In a thrilling night of hockey at the Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday night, the Avalanche survived a furious final few seconds to win 5-4. The Ottawa Senators were firing in a futile gesture of ferocity on Avs back-up goalie Jonas Johansson to no avail. This one-night stand belonged to Colorado and it was Jojo who stole the show.

“What a save by Jojo to save the game for us,” Mikko Rantanen told Altitude. “He was good all night. He stepped up really well.”

JoJo fought back 32 of 36 shots, which for most goalies on most nights is an average performance. However, the stop he made with less than 10 second to go on on All-Star Alex DeBrincat will stand in the all-time pantheon of clutch saves.

“JJ was good right from the start,” said head coach Jared Bednar. “He looked sharp. The goals they got, they earned them. JJ was really good tonight.”

Johansson, who has only played in one NHL game this season and it came all the way back on New Year’s Eve, was in danger of being the goat, not the hero. The Avs were teetering towards blowing a third-period, three-goal lead. Instead, Johansson will live forever in the Avs highlight reels of hockey immortality.

The Sens were handed a two-man advantage with less than a minute to go. They unleashed a blitzkrieg of action in front of the Avs net. On the biggest play of the night, JoJo bolted to his left, deftly deflecting a shot off his right pad. Unfortunately, the puck ended up directly on the stick of the Cat.

The right-winger raised his arm in celebration after firing his shot into what he thought was an open net. He didn’t expect Johansson to journey into infamy.

Extending his right leg as far as it could go while sliding to his right, JoJo stopped what would’ve and should’ve been the game-tying goal.

It was an absolute miracle save.

The Avs survived the 5-on-3 disadvantage to find themselves undefeated in three straight on their current four-game road tour.

“The commitment and determination in our game has to go up,” said Bednar. “But now, for the last four games, the determination has been there. The commitment to checking has got us there.”

The game featured one of the most bizarre goals anybody has ever seen.

Leading 4-2 late in the second period, it appeared the puck was iced by the Avs. However, the whistle never blew. Sens goaltender Mads Sogaard initially tied up the puck with his stick against his right pad. But, there was no pressure put on the goalie from the Avs.

With no reason to blow a whistle, the refs simply didn’t. Sogaard thought the play was dead. Exposing the puck as he rose was a major mistake. Lars Eller, who the night before had expressed massive frustration that he hadn’t been able to contribute more in his seven games with the Avs, made one of the most heads-up plays of the year.

With the puck lying at the doorstep unattended, Lars was riding the lightning by shoving the loose puck into the goal while everybody else stood around waiting for a dance partner.

“Yes,” said Bednar when asked if it was one of the weirdest goals he had ever seen. “There wasn’t a whistle, and everybody stopped playing except for Lars. He’s a smart player. He’s a wily, veteran guy. It was a big moment of the game.”

“You’ve just gotta have that never-quit mentality,” said Eller on the Altitude broadcast. “I haven’t had a lot of luck lately.”

But there wasn’t a leprechaun hiding in Eller’s sweater. It was all heart and experience that generated the game-winning goal. Finding a home sweet home can be difficult. Lars, with this spotlight moment, arrived.

After the Montreal game on Monday night, there were plenty of reasons to expect the Avs to fall apart due to injury. Bednar said that the finger surgery performed on Artturi Lehkonen’s hand went well. He is expected to be back in four to six weeks. What seemed crippling now seems inspiring.

The Avs have successfully taken their tour bus out on the road as the enemy, and like a steel horse, they ride undaunted to Detroit, dead or alive.



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