Avalanche Maple Leafs Hockey

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) and teammate Andrew Cogliano (11) celebrate the team's shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO — Alexandar Georgiev mostly relaxed before getting thrown into a shootout.

He didn’t flinch.

The Avalanche’s starting goalie stood tall Wednesday night in a 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. It was an uneven flow of action. Georgiev faced just 18 shots on goal through regulation and zero in overtime. Then he stonewalled William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in a high stakes game of one-on-one.

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“A little break, a few minutes, then it’s one player against you,” Georgiev said of his pre-shootout routine. “You focus on your job and read what they do.”

Lately, his Avalanche teammates have made that job easier than normal. Colorado suppressed the puck in consecutive wins over Arizona, Montreal and Toronto with none totaling more than 20 shots on goal. Coach Jared Bednar said that it’s a product of “paying attention to the details.”

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“When we play with that type of commitment and dedication to the checking side of things, we’re pretty good at it,” Bednar continued. “We had a little bit of a shaky start where we were giving up some good scoring chances in the first period. Then we tightened it up after that.”

That shots-on-goal differential certainly makes life easier for Georgiev. He got beat early in the game on a Morgan Rielly wrister through traffic. But Georgiev settled in to regain his mojo, shots or no shots.

“You have to be in the moment. It doesn’t matter if I do 20 less moves during the four hours. It’s still a mental thing,” Georgiev said. “I feel good. The guys definitely helped me with a little less workload here.”

It’s a playing style with fortuitous timing for an Avalanche team that’s missing their backup goaltender. Pavel Francouz (lower-body injury) remains out with no firm timeline for his return. It’s likely that Jonas Johansson plays Thursday night in Ottawa on the second night of back-to-back games.

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But the team has plenty of faith in Georgiev heading into the postseason.

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“It’s a learning process for him being the guy to carry the load multiple times for us this season with the injuries to (Francouz),” Bednar said. “It’s the second time Frankie has gone down and he’s really done a nice job of staying focused … and getting away from the game a little bit on his off days, so he’s not grinding and just thinking about hockey all the time.

“He seems refreshed, he seems energized, and he seems sharp.”

Avalanche 2, Maple Leafs 1 (SO)

What happened: Colorado defeated Toronto in a tightly contested game with playoff vibes for the team’s third consecutive victory.

What went right: The Avs extended their streak to five consecutive games with a power-play goal when Mikko Rantanen’s slapshot deflected off Toronto defenseman Jake McCabe and found the back of the net. Colorado’s penalty kill was especially strong (3-3) to keep the game tied through regulation. Nathan MacKinnon was the lone player to score in the shootout.

What went wrong: Toronto scored less than four minutes into regulation with a Morgan Rielly wrister from distance. The Avalanche failed to capitalize on 4-of-5 power play chances.

Between the pipes: Alexandar Georgiev made 17-of-18 saves. Toronto’s Ilya Samsonov stopped 28 of Colorado’s 29 shots on goal.

What’s next: The Avalanche (38-22-6) face the Ottawa Senators (33-30-4), 5 p.m. Thursday (Altitude) at Canadian Tire Centre.

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