If you saw the game, you know what I mean. If you didn't...you missed a wild one. The Avs continued their winning ways at home in a game that featured extreme momentum swings and open, end-to-end action. When the dust finally settled, Colorado had a 5-4 shootout victory.
And what a ride it was to get there. Colorado started the game looking terrible on defense - completely mesmerized by the Calgary defensemen joining in on the offensive plays. Calgary took advantage of the chicken-with-its-head-cut-off defensive gameplan of the Avs, and scored a couple of early goals to take a disheartening 2-0 lead. Then, late in the first period, Joe Sakic made a beautiful centering pass. Unfortunately, the pass was to Jarome Iginla wide open in front of Peter Budaj. Iginla made it 3-0, and as the 1st period drew to a close, it was looking like a very long night.
The 2nd period didn't start any better, and Iginla notched his 2nd goal of the night with a blast past a frozen Budaj. That was the one true "bad" goal that Budaj allowed on the night, but the damage was done and his night was over. With Calgary leading 4-0, Jose Theodore coming on in a relief role, and the Avs playing like ass in their own end, this game was all but over.
Enter Ryan Smyth and, yes, Scott Parker. Just 13 seconds after the Iginla back-breaker, Smyth took the puck up the left wing boards and fired the puck towards the net. The puck deflected off either Marek Svatos or the Flame's Robyn Regehr and into the net. It looked like Regehr, but the scorekeeper gave the goal to Svatos, but the key here is the "into the net" part; the Avs had cut the lead to 4-1.
Just a couple minutes later, Parker and Flame's enforcer Eric Godard squared off at center ice. Godard put on a brave face when circling with The Sheriff, but as soon as Parker moved in, Godard gave up, turning his head and hanging on for dear life until it was over. Kurt Sauer would say in the 2nd intermission that the Parker fight rallied the bench. It was only Parker's 3rd shift of the night - and it would prove to be his final shift of the night, but it was key in getting the Avs fired up.
Just over the 10 minute mark, the Avs scored on a fluke of a goal to make it 4-2. Ryan Smyth broke in again on the left wing and fired a harmless looking shot at Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff made the save, but the puck bounced out to the skate of pug-like Andres Eriksson; it bounced off the skate, past a surprised Kiprusoff, and trickled ever-so-slowly into the net in front of a diving Kipper. Just over two minutes later, with Jarome Iginla in the box serving a double minor for a high stick, Andrew Brunette centers the puck to Smyth. Although Smyth's stick is on the ice in perfect position, the puck doesn't reach him. Instead, it hits Adrian Aucoin's skate and deflects into the net. 4-3, and the Avs are back in business. Smyth would end the night with "just" a goal and an assist, but was the major factor in all 3 goals to this point and was an offensive dynamo all night. He would end the night with 11 shots, tying a franchise record. He also, in my book, should have been the one to get credit on the first goal. Add that to the 2 goals I thought he earned in the Columbus game, and Smyth could really be sitting on 5 goals this year.
After Paul Stastny (who had 3 more assists tonight), I think the Avs most consistent player over all 6 games has been Wojtek Wolski. Wolski hasn't put up the points that Stastny has, but he's put in a solid effort in all facets of the game - he's making hits, he's trying to make stuff happen with the puck, he's getting back defensively. Wolski's working far harder than he did last year, and that's got to start paying dividends before long. That hard work is what led to the tying goal. Towards the end of the 2nd period, Wolski raced in to put pressure on two Flames going back for the puck behind the Calgary net. When he got there, he forced a turnover, grabbed the puck, and centered it. With no one in front of the net, the puck slowly rolled all the way to the blueline, where Kurt Sauer met up with it and blasted it 5-hole. Sauer, who had no goals last year, is the first Avalanche defenseman to score a goal this year.
The 3rd period was a nail-biter. The Avs didn't get many chances (just 4 shots), but almost all of their shots we're excellent. Kiprusoff made to amazing saves, robbing Svatos first and later Laperriere at point blank on a 3 on 1 break. Meanwhile, Theodore was steady in the Avs end, making some big saves of his own and helping to stave off a last minute Calgary powerplay that, last season, would likely have been a disaster. Neither team could score in OT. Wolski and (who else) Smyth scored in the shootout, while Theodore stopped 2 of the 3 shots he faced, giving the Avs a critical, come-from-behind, divisional win.
My notes on the game can be found here.
Milan Hejduk missed the game with a back injury. Ben Guite took his spot on the roster, and Marek Svatos took his spot on the RPM line. On defense, Jordan Leopold returned from his 2-game hip injury, and Jeff Finger sat out the game to make room.
The line report can be found here.
- In relief efforts, Tyler Weiman and Jose Theodore have faced a total of 27 shots and have stopped every one.
- Paul Stastny was a superb 16-9 on faceoffs (64%)
- The top pairing of Brett Clark and Scott Hannan both made some mistakes...but still combined to block 10 of the 16 Avalanche blocks. 10 of the 16 blocks were from the stick of Phaneuf, Aucoin and Iginla - all hard shooters. That might be the game difference right there.
- The 2nd period has been a good period defensively for the Avs. The Avs have allowed just 19 shots in the 2nd period of the last 3 games (2 vs Stl, 10 vs CBJ and 7 last night).
The Avs start on a 4 game road trip on Friday in Chicago. The Avs, of course, are still looking for their first road win of the season.