Patience pays off for Francouz in earning his first career NHL win

Oct 12, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Derek Stepan (21) attempts a shot on Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz (39) in the first period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The road traveled by Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz to achieve his first career NHL victory was unorthodox. But somewhere along this route to Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime win over the Arizona Coyotes at the Pepsi Center, Francouz believed all his hard work would eventually pay off.

“I was thinking about it since the morning,” Francouz said, after his first career NHL victory. “You have it somewhere in the back of your head. I was expecting to be more nervous actually. Once the puck dropped I was trying to be as focused as possible and trying to flow with the game.”

Francouz, 29, made 34 saves against the Coyotes, the very same team he battled in his first career appearance a season ago. Thus, he has seen action in the NHL before tonight. He was used on two occasions last season, coming in relief of the Avalanche’s starter and stopping 33-of-35 shots in the process. He was credited with the loss both times, as the lone goal surrendered in each game was the eventual game-winner.

Aside from his stint with the Avalanche, Francouz played a majority of the season with the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League. He finished the season with a record of 27-17-3, a .918 save percentage and three shutouts.

But before signing with the Avalanche in 2018, the native of Czech Republic, was a Continental Hockey League all-star in Russia. Francouz appeared in 83 KHL games over three seasons, recording 32 wins and a sparkling .945 save percentage.

His road to earning a victory required a lot of patience, but for the Avalanche netminder, it’s just the beginning of what’s to come for the rest of the season.

“The backup is the most selfless guy in the room so when he gets a chance to go in our guys want to see him succeed,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “He’s still an unknown to our group a little bit so for our team to gain confidence in his ability to win us hockey games is great and that’s the type of family atmosphere we want.”

The Avalanche and Coyotes were scoreless through 40 minutes, both teams going 0-for-2 on the power play. The netminders, Francouz and Coyotes starter Antti Raanta, combined for 39 saves.

But on their third power-play opportunity, the Avs struck first. Center Nazem Kadri scored his first of the season before center Tyson Jost added his first nearly two minutes later. Up 2-0, Colorado found itself protecting a multi-goal third period lead, where it had yet to surrender a goal this season.

But the Coyotes came back, scoring the game-tying goal with just under four minutes remaining to send the game to overtime. In its first overtime of the season, the hero for Colorado was Andre Burakovsky, who scored the game-winning goal for the second consecutive game. His second of the season gave the Avs their 10th straight regular-season victory at the Pepsi Center dating to last season.

“I think we played a pretty good game, still we are giving up a lot of chances and when we went up 2-0 we should close the game there,” Burakovsky said. “It’s always good to find a way to win the game and be 4-0.”

Three takeaways

Colorado’s depth is its biggest strong suit this season. Center Nathan MacKinnon and Kadri have scored one goal each and the only goal from the blueline came from Ryan Graves on an empty net. However, the Avalanche’s depth has picked up the slack. Fourth-liner Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has tallied two goals, matching that of Burakovsky and fellow newcomer Joonas Donskoi. The three additions have provided the Avs with much-needed depth from all four lines.

The Avalanche’s power play has scored in every game. Colorado’s power play is 5-for-18 on the season after going 1-for-4 tonight. The goal from Kadri means the Avs have scored with the man-advantage in each of their four games.

Cale Makar is quietly breaking records. Makar’s two assists gives him five points on the season. He is the first rookie defenseman in franchise history to begin his career on a four-game point streak.

Stat of the night

The Avalanche’s 4-0 start is the best since they started 6-0 in 2013-14. It is also just the fifth time they have began a season by winning four straight games. Heading into Monday’s matchup with the Washington Capitals, the Avalanche remain one of two undefeated teams in the NHL (Edmonton Oilers, 5-0).

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