Close, but no cigar. The Avs hang in pretty well against the rolling Detroit juggernaut (22-1-1 against non-Central division teams), but couldn't find a way to get the equalizer past Hasek the dinosaur. In the end, Detroit won 4-2 and the Avalanche failed to collect at least a point for the first time since December 12th.
Detroit jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on two goals from Eyebrowski Filppula.On the first, at 12:56 in the first, Filpulla's backhander deflected off of Brett Clark's skate in front of the net. His second came at the 17:05 mark, when Karlis Skrastins found himself way out of position. Skrastin's attempt to remove the puck from Nicklas Kronvall at the point was ill-advised and extremely ineffective; Kronvall's point shot was stopped by Budaj, but, with Skrastin's out for a stroll, there was no one to pick up Filppula in the slot. He easily put home the rebound, and the Avs seemed to be on the way to a big loss.
Thankfully, it wouldn't be quite that dire. Just about 90 seconds later, Brian Rafalski made a terrible pass inside his zone. Meant for his partner, it instead went right to the stick of Cody McLeod. McLeod skated in and beat Hasek for his first NHL goal. That saved the Avs bacon, cutting the lead to 2-1 and giving the Avs a bit of a boost in the 2nd.
The Avs were able to take advantage of the momentum swing at the 5:56 mark of the 2nd. Detroit's Brett Lebda chose a bad time to pinch in, and was unable to keep the puck in front of him. It broke McLeod and Jaroslav Hlinka out 2 on 1. McLeod went straight to the net and, I think, waved something shiny at Hasek to hypnotize the old goat into a trance-like state. Hlinka's shot was stopped, but Hasek just sat there Theodorelike while Marek Svatos trailed in and banged the rebound home.
Jiri Hudler made it 3-2 at the 11:00 mark of the 2nd. He and Kris Draper (who knew he was still around?) had a nice little give-and-go in front of Jeff Finger, and then Hudler let go a nifty little shot that somehow beat Budaj. It seemed like Budaj was in good position to make the save, but Hudler's shot - the eventual game winner - found it's way to the back of the net. That goal seemed to deflate the team (uh, ours, not theirs). Meanwhile, Hasek woke up from his nap and remembered that he had a game to play; he was insanely good the rest of the way. The Avs didn't get many shots (just 3 in the 3rd), but had a lot of great opportunities to tie it. They couldn't get the equalizer, though, and Mikael Samuelsson's empty netter iced the game for Detroit.
For the most part, the Avalanche played good, hard, physical hockey. The big exception, as has been the case for most of the year, is that dreadful powerplay. I'm going to look at some numbers a bit later today over at MHH, but you don't need numbers now to tell you that our powerplay is about as effective as the pull-out method. I thought the officiating for this game was terrible; the refs missed a few penalties early on that should have put the Avs on the PP, and gave the Avs a couple of gift PPs later in the game. But, I can't really rant about that because it didn't matter. You could put this team on the powerplay all night long, and I don't think they could score. Joel Quenneville can't seem to decide if he wants to use three forwards or four forwards. The truth is, neither approach is working. I think we should just start declining these penalties and saving ourselves the embarrassment.
Game notes are here
In case you missed the news, Joe Sakic will have hernia surgery and miss 8 to 12 weeks. Ouch. 8 weeks would have him back in late-February, 12 weeks has him coming back just in time for the playoffs.
Brad Richardson returned from his shoulder injury, and he seemed no worse for wear as he was on the giving and receiving end of a number of decent hits. Although I can't find it anywhere in print, David Jones was sent down to Lake Erie to make room for Richardson.
Ryan Smyth also returned to the lineup after missing 3 games with a stiff neck. Jordan Leopold was a possibility to play as well, but did not skate. He was a scratch, along with Scott Parker and TJ Hensick.
- Stastny, Smyth, Hejduk: 0g, 0a, 0p, -6, 15:33
- Hlinka, McLeod, Svatos: 2g, 1a, 3p, +4, 10:44
- Guite, McCormick, Laperriere: 0g, 0a, 0p, -1, 13:34
- Richardson, Wolski, Brunette: 0g, 0a, 0p, -4, 10:46
- Clark & Skrastins
- Liles & Hannan
- Finger & Cumiskey
- The Avs now have two guys - Guite & McLeod - who scored their first NHL goal against Dominik Hasek
- On the McLeod goal, Brian Rafalski was not charged with a giveaway. That's incredible.
- The Avs out hit the Red Wings 18-11.
The Avs host the not-so-always-dangerous LA Kings on Saturday. I'll be honest right now and admit that I'll be watching the Pats instead so probably no notes or recap from me for that one. After that is a New Year's Eve game against Phoenix, another game I probably won't be able to recap. I should be back on track after that, though.