photo courtesy of Danny Moloshok/AP
The Los Angeles Kings is a team you would expect the Colorado Avalanche to dominate. Finally, the Avs lived up to expectations, beating the Kings in a 5-2 rout last night at the Staples Center.
The formula was the same from early in the season; despite suffering a multi-goal deficit in the first period, the Avs rallied to score several unanswered goals and completely shut down the opposition in the third period. That formula had been missing for a while.
Raitis Ivanans and Anze Kopitar scored early for the Kings, but Paul Stastny cut their lead in half with a goal late in the third period off an assist from Ryan Smyth. Smyth had only just begun, apparently.
The second period was relatively quiet, with the only real highlight being TJ Hensick's first NHL goal, a streaking breakaway that showcased his speed and scoring ability like nothing else could have. Though he played it totally cool the rest of the night, I'm sure Hensiiick was giddy.
The Kings managed only four shots in the second period as the Avs controlled the puck. Jose Theodore didn't get a lot of work, but he stopped the shots he had to and kept things even until the start of the third.
The third period was the Ryan Smyth show. Just 19 seconds into the last frame, Smyth scored off a Milan Hejduk rebound and gave the Avs the first lead of the night. Then, eleven minutes later, with mane flowing (his helmet had been knocked off), Smyth scored an ugly, from-the-slot goal in the middle of heavy traffic, just like he is paid to do. The rout was on.
Jaroslav Hlinka, who had been peppering the net all game, finally got the goal he deserved at 14:23 in the third, sealing the fate of the Kings and solidifying his place in the lineup. Ben Guite, who played hard all night as always, got the assist.
The Avalanche defense was vastly improved, and despite one glaring mistake by Scott Hannan on the second Kings goal in the first period, nobody on the Colorado blue line played poorly. My only criticism is that John-Michael Liles doesn't shoot the puck enough. He's supposed to be an offensive defenseman and he too often looks for a teammate before launching a big slap shot from the point. Just shoot it!
Also of note is the fire that Wojtek Wolski has shown during this brief road trip. Against the Sharks he was seen pushing and shoving and talking smack all over the ice. Against the Kings, he responded to a Brad Stuart cheap shot in the second period with fists flying and mouth flapping. Good man. Only Stuart went to the box on the play, which is even more testament of how awesome Wolski can be.
Most important about the win last night was the fact that the Avalanche played without Kurt Sauer, Joe Sakic, Marek Svatos, Ian Laperriere, Jordan Leopold and Andrew Brunette (after the first period). Yet they were still capable of routing the Kings. Colorado is so deep it's not funny, and it's hard to believe they've played so poorly as of late. But last night, all that was forgotten and the team played just like they are expected to play. I hope it continues.
The Avs next return to Denver for a quick one-game homestand against the Sharks on Monday night. On Wednesday, they face the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road.
Stars of the Game:
- Ryan Smyth (2g, 1a)
- Paul Stastny (1g, 1a)
- Dustin Brown (0g, 1a)