DENVER — One moment, Jason LaBarbera was heading to a Halloween party with his minor-league teammates. Two hours of sleep and two long flights later, he was in Denver to serve as a backup for the Anaheim Ducks.
And then, just before the opening faceoff, he was told he would be starting in net — his first NHL game since last December.
The emergency goalie came to the rescue, too, stopping 16 shots as the Ducks beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Sunday night.
This wasn't exactly what LaBarbera was envisioning even 12 hours earlier.
"All of it is kind of goofy," LaBarbera said. "I've been around a lot, but I've never had to deal with something like this."
LaBarbera made an unexpected start after he arrived earlier Sunday from Norfolk of the AHL. He was supposed to be the backup in place of Frederik Andersen, who was scratched due to leg tightness.
He got the start when John Gibson sustained a lower-body injury in warmups. Things got so crazy that goaltending consultant Dwayne Roloson even dressed, and was the backup in case something happened to LaBarbera.
No need to worry, though. LaBarbera was on his game, even if he allowed a fluky goal early. That was just nerves.
LaBarbera showed no signs of fatigue, even if he was playing for a third straight night. He made 36 saves and earned two wins for Norfolk over the weekend. He carried that momentum to Sunday and earned his first NHL victory since Oct. 7, 2013, when he was with Edmonton.
"I'm still in la-la land," LaBarbera said.
Defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler scored their first goals of the season 1:44 apart in the second period to give the Ducks a lead that LaBarbera protected. Corey Perry also scored for the Ducks, who went 3-1 on a four-game trip.
Dennis Everberg scored his first NHL goal, and Nathan MacKinnon added another for weary Colorado, which also lost at St. Louis in a shootout on Saturday.
Colorado didn't really challenge LaBarbera all that often, especially in the second period when the team was outshot 12-2.
"Two shots on a guy, who obviously got called up at the last second, isn't good enough," forward Matt Duchene said. "We just lost the game in the second period."
The Avalanche had their chances to tie it late. Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin drew a high-sticking penalty with 3:07 remaining, and Semyon Varlamov went to the bench for an extra skater, giving the Avs a 6-on-4 opportunity. But Colorado couldn't capitalize.
"It's not always going to go our way, and it's when things are not going our way we try to force plays, push plays," coach Patrick Roy said. "This is where we get into trouble."
Varlamov was kept busy all night, making one sprawling save after another. He couldn't help the Avalanche procure a point, though, the first time in seven games the Avalanche failed to get at least one.
Varlamov finished with 30 saves.
Anaheim dominated the second period, with Lindholm scoring on a pass from Patrick Maroon, who was behind the net.
Moments later, Fowler gave the Ducks a 3-2 lead by driving in on Varlamov, faking one way and tapping the puck into the net with the goalie on the ice.
Colorado got on the board 2:18 in when Everberg banked a shot off the boards and back to himself in order to get around a defenseman. He then lined a shot that squeezed past LaBarbera's pads.
A quirky goal that could have rattled LaBarbera, but didn't.
"I've been around enough. You just kind of realize the circumstances and go, 'OK, whatever. This is really goofy, but keep playing. Don't worry about it,'" LaBarbera said.
As for what is next with LaBarbera, well, he wasn't quite sure. Is he heading back to Anaheim with the team?
"I'm assuming so. But I don't know," he said.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau eased his mind.
"Until we get both goalies healthy, he's with us," Boudreau said.
NOTES: Anaheim D Bryan Allen (lower-body injury) joined the team, but remains on the injured list. He has been in Norfolk on a long-term injury conditioning assignment. ... The Ducks open a four-game homestand Wednesday against the New York Islanders. ... Perry leads the league with 11 goals. ... The Avalanche turned aside five power plays, stretching their streak to 25 straight kills. ... MacKinnon has four goals in three games after starting the season in a slump.
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