DENVER (AP) — The third-string goalie nicknamed “Hamburglar” stole a game for Colorado in Nashville.
No time for Andrew Hammond to revel in his thievery, though. Game 6 awaits Sunday at the Pepsi Center. Once again, the Avalanche and their surprise goalie with the catchy moniker — he used to have a mask with the McDonald’s “Hamburglar” character on the side — will try to ward off elimination trailing Nashville 3-2 in the first-round series.
“Backs against the wall in an elimination game seem to bring out the best in us,” Hammond said Saturday after the team arrived home.
In Philadelphia, Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth faces the same kind of pressure Sunday with his team down 3-2 heading home against Pittsburgh. He stopped 30 shots in Game 5 to help the Flyers extend that series.
“I’ve been practicing well and feeling good about my game,” said Neuvirth, who’s been banged up this season. “I believe in myself that I can bring my ‘A’ game on the big stage.”
Hammond certainly brought out his best in what Colorado coach Jared Bednar called “one of the biggest games he’s had in his career.”
The 30-year-old Hammond turned back 44 shots from the top-seeded Predators in Game 5. This after he was thrust into action for the third period of Game 4 when Jonathan Bernier went down with a lower-body injury. Bernier was filling in with starter Semyon Varlamov sidelined by a knee injury.
To think, Hammond was essentially a throw-in player during the three-team deal that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa in November. The Avalanche already had a surplus of goalies, so Hammond spent time in the American Hockey League. Eventually, Hammond was called up, but before making an appearance with Colorado he suffered a concussion. And once he recovered, he was briefly sent back to the AHL.
Hammond’s only NHL game of the season came on March 28 against Philadelphia, stopping 31 shots in a 2-1 loss.
On Friday, Hammond made his first playoff start since April 17, 2015, with Ottawa.
“I won’t lie. There are days you wonder if it would happen again for you,” Hammond said. “As cliche as it is, you stick to the process and try to get better. Fortunately, it all worked out last night. We’re not satisfied, though. We want to keep going and win tomorrow night, and extend the series, and go back to Nashville and play another meaningful hockey game.”
The Predators now find themselves trying to avoid becoming the fifth Presidents’ Trophy winners to be eliminated in the first round since 2005-06.
“There’s a lot of confidence in the room and belief in the room that we can go to Colorado and win a game,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.
ABOUT THAT NICKNAME
Hammond is ambivalent about being called the “Hamburglar,” a nickname that’s followed him since his college days at Bowling Green.
“To be honest, I don’t know if anyone actually calls me that to my face outside of maybe fans,” said Hammond, who had the “Hamburglar” character on his mask while in Ottawa. “I have no problem with it. I think the side story it’s taken on has been pretty funny. It adds to it.”
Does his family call him that?
“No,” he laughed. “No.”
The road team is 4-1 in the Penguins-Flyers series as it shifts back to Philadelphia. Even more, the Penguins are 4-0 in Philly this year, winning by a combined score of 20-4, including 10-1 in Games 3 and 4.
“I’m not a huge believer you carry momentum over from one game to the next,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “You have to re-generate it. We played some really good hockey games at home down the stretch. We didn’t do it the last two.”
ON THE MEND
The Penguins could have forward Patric Hornqvist back in the lineup after he skated with the team Saturday. He’s missed the last two games with an upper-body injury.
Hornqvist has 20 career playoff goals, including one in this series.
READY TO GO
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant plans to pick up the intensity at practice, maybe with some 3-on-3 scrimmages featuring a little contact. He doesn’t want his team to become too rusty given the layoff in between series. The expansion Golden Knights could go more than a week between finishing the sweep of Los Angeles on Tuesday and starting their second-round series against San Jose.
“In a perfect world, I’d soon have three or four days off and get back at it,” Gallant said. “I’m sure San Jose is the same way. Any coach would say the same thing.”
AP Sports Writers Teresa M. Walker and Will Graves contributed to this report.
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