LAS VEGAS (AP) — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has six goals this season, and three have come against his former team — in its arena.
Bellemare and Nazem Kadri each scored two goals, leading the Colorado Avalanche to a 7-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night.
“This building has been good to me the last two years and a few months,” said Bellemare, who registered his first multi-goal game. “It’s just kind of crazy bounces, crazy luck, crazy moves, crazy plays — somehow I feel good when I play here.”
Bellemare, who played for Vegas in its first two years in the league, scored the first goal of the game during a 6-1 win in October, then duplicated the feat when he took a cross-ice pass from J.T. Compher, skated between the circles and whipped a backhand past his former teammate, Marc-Andre Fleury.
“Sometimes bounces are going your right way. I could have received that puck in my skate and it could have floated off my skate, but it just stuck there and that’s the start of the play,” said Bellemare, who netted his second goal late in the second period to seize momentum for the Avalanche, who took a three-goal lead at the time. “I never scored like this on Flower, so it’s just, some nights you get the puck luck.”
Quipped Vegas coach Gerard Gallant: “He sure loves to play against us, doesn’t he? Maybe he didn’t like me at all.”
For Bellemare, it’s appears a bit more than luck, as he’s on pace to shatter his career high of seven goals, which he achieved with Philadelphia during the 2015-16 season, and 16 points, which he notched with Vegas in its inaugural season in the league two years ago.
“It’s hard to believe I scored two, I usually score five a year, so that’s already one-third of it; that’s nice,” said Bellemare, who signed with the Avalanche as a free agent on July 1. “I made a decision this summer after talking with this team and they were quite honest with me and the way that I play offensively and that they knew that I could have more, and they wanted more. They gave me the chance to play in that position where I get a little more ice time and obviously I’m striving right now. They work me in their practices, and I feel way more confident.”
Bellemare has been a nice addition for an Avalanche team that improved to 7-3-1 in December and will head into the three-day holiday break on a 15-6-1 run since Nov. 7. With the win, the Avalanche finished tied for their most points at the break with 51, matching their total from 2000-01.
Colorado also improved to 13-6-1 on the road, tied for the second-most road wins with Arizona, behind only Washington (16).
“We’ve had a lot of injuries and we’ve overcome quite a bit of adversity already in the first half of the season and we’re kind of getting through that injury bug now,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “The depth that (Colorado GM) Joe (Sakic) brought in in the offseason and the guys have real defined roles and we like the depth that we have, and guys are buying into those roles and they’re coming to play every night.”
That includes goaltender Pavel Francouz, who improved to 9-0-1 in his last 12 games. Francouz stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced, and now has a 2.03 goals against average and .938 save percentage during his 12-game run.
Fleury, who entered the game on a 5-1-1 run in last seven home starts, made 31 saves. But it was the goals he allowed that left Fleury looking anything like a three-time Stanley Cup champion.
Matt Nieto, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Valeri Nichushkin also scored for the Avalanche, who kept the pressure on Fleury most of the game.
Ryan Reaves, Max Pacioretty and William Carrier scored for the Golden Knights.
The highlight of the game for Vegas was Deryk Engelland igniting the announced crowd of 18,425 with his fists. The 37-year-old Engelland got the best of 24-year-old Nichushkin with a flurry of right-handed haymakers before the two tumbled to the ice.
NOTES: Avalanche D Cale Makar was a full participant in morning skate and wore a regular practice jersey but missed his eighth straight game with an upper-body injury. Bednar said he wants to make sure the rookie is fully healthy before returning to game action. Makar is slated to make his return on Friday against the Minnesota Wild. ... Landeskog became the 10th player in franchise history, and fifth in Avalanche history, to reach 600 career games. ... The Avalanche have won four straight games against the Golden Knights, outscoring them 20-7. ... Fleury remains one victory shy of 454 career wins and tying Curtis Joseph for sixth all-time.
Avalanche: Host Minnesota on Friday.
Golden Knights: At Anaheim on Friday.