There were many good signs for the Colorado Avalanche in Saturday night’s win at the Tampa Bay Lightning. The visitors snapped a three-game losing streak. The top line of Nathan MacKinnon (1 goal, 2 assists), Gabriel Landeskog (1 goal, 1 assist) and Mikko Rantanen (1 goal), plus defenseman Cale Makar (2 assists, shootout winner), looked like who the Avalanche expect them to be.

It was also the first star turn from goaltender Darcy Kuemper, the Avalanche’s biggest offseason pickup.

“Kuemps played unbelievable tonight. Obviously kept us in the game,” Makar said. “There’s not much else more to it, he does it every night. We don’t expect much less.”

The preseason was, well, the preseason. Kuemper allowed three goals in each of his two and a half games, warming up behind a group of auditioning players.

His victories have come with two of the past three Vezina Trophy winners on the other end of the ice. The first was in the opener against Marc-Andre Fleury, who made more noteworthy saves in the 4-2 Avalanche win. Kuemper stopped Kirby Dach on a breakaway, then was screened on the Blackhawks’ first goal. He was simply beaten by Connor Murphy straight-on on the second.

Then the frequency of defensive breakdowns picked up. MacKinnon said the team hung Kuemper “out to dry” in an ugly 6-3 loss at Washington.

“That’s not good for anyone’s confidence,” he said.

Backup Jonas Johansson took the next start in Florida, then Kuemper manned the net opposite Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, defending NHL playoff MVP. Kuemper made 29 saves.

One of Saturday’s highlights occurred late in the game when a shot from well out was headed wide. The puck nicked Colorado defenseman Bowen Byram and Kuemper reached back with his stick, stopping it inches from the goal line.

“Just kind of saw it out of the corner of my eye so I just reached back,” Kuemper said. “Fortunately I was able to get it before it crossed the line.”

Kuemper went on to allow two goals on six shootout attempts.

“We had to play some desperate hockey here. You need the points,” coach Jared Bednar said, later complimenting Kuemper’s performance. “You just can’t afford in this league to not be carving points out on a regular basis and we haven’t done that so far.”

The team defense, as MacKinnon noted, still needs to improve. Kuemper, who carries a 3.51 goals-against average and .894 save percentage into the Avalanche’s sixth game of the season Tuesday against the Vegas Golden Knights, will be tested again.

Good signs were there on both fronts Saturday.

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