DALLAS - Jonathan Bernier was late getting into the Colorado Avalanche dressing room, but there were obligations elsewhere. Television interviews, star-of-the-game closeups, that kind of thing. So, when he finally trudged into the visitors' room at American Airlines Arena, a rebel-yell sized "Wooooo" emanated from his appreciative Avs teammates.
"Bernie" is becoming even more popular with Avs fans and teammates than the team's official mascot of the same name. While "stealing one" might be a bit an overstatement to describe what he did in Saturday's 4-1 Avs victory over the Dallas Stars - Colorado's sixth straight - he was probably the game's No. 1 star in a building where usually that belongs to a star with a capital S.
The Avs (7-9-2 on the road coming in) beat a Stars club that had been 16-5-1 at home, thanks to Bernier's 27 saves and the opportunistic scoring at even strength by Alexander Kerfoot, Nathan MacKinnon and Blake Comeau.
With Semyon Varlamov out for who knows how long now, with a setback to his recent groin strain, the Avs figure to be relying on Bernier a lot more in the short-term, and possibly longer.
As a guy who has worn the label of "backup" most of his 10-year NHL career, this is the latest chance to prove Bernier can be more than that. If Varlamov will be out beyond the iffy two-week forecast already prognosticated, is Bernier up for the challenge?