With a win on the line and his team’s offensive and defensive effort in full stride on Saturday afternoon at the Pepsi Center, defenseman Nikita Zadorov made the play of the game against Winnipeg that gave the Colorado Avalanche the spark it needed to finish strong for its first regulation win since Dec. 11, 5-2.

“That’s definitely the type of play we need,” head coach Jared Bednar said. “I thought he was outstanding tonight.”

As the Avs were making their way down to the other side of the ice after a solid defensive stay, Mark Scheifele skated in to defend against Zadorov, who promptly leveled him and sent him sliding a good ten feet. Jacob Trouba was not about to have it and jumped Zadorov, earning himself 17 penalty minutes to keep him out the rest of the game–two for instigating, five for fighting and 10 for misconduct.

“It’s part of my game. I try to stay physical. It’s not every game you have huge hits, but today I had a couple,” Zadorov said. “I saw him with his head down and I tried to put on the brakes to try to stop him, and I think I cut him cleanly. Good thing he didn’t get injured, I don’t want to get guys injured, but it is what it is. It’s hockey, right?”

Despite what looked like a legal hit on Zadorov’s part, the defenseman was sent to the box for charging and fighting.

“That’s hockey,” Matt Nieto said of the physicality in the game. “If you don’t like playing those kinds of games, you shouldn’t be playing at this level. A lot of big hits, Z had a couple of huge hits that were clean. That got the energy of our group going. It was a really good all around game for our group.”

Nieto, feeding off Zadorov’s energy, finished the night with two goals, including an open net in the final minutes of the game.

“It’s a good feeling for us,” Nieto said. “We went into the third period with a one-goal lead, we didn’t get on our heels. We still played aggressive, we still got that next goal, and it was huge to get that two-goal lead. A lot of positives out of tonight.”

Center Matt Duchene added to the Avalanche’s overall effort as he contributed three assists in lieu of the inertia that Zadorov created defensively.

“We haven’t had a lot of showings like that lately, so it was nice to put a game together like that. It felt kind of like the start of the year,” Duchene said. “We just did everything better. Everybody brought their game and everybody was playing hard.”

With the win, the Avs advanced to 14-33-2 overall, but it was long overdue as the team had been picking up its energy levels in recent games but has consistently fallen short.

“I’m not so much relieved but I’m just happy for our guys,” Bednar said. “Overall, great team effort from start to finish, and you get rewarded for that effort. It’s something we needed. We needed it as a group, we needed it as individuals.”