Well, I wasn't really sure what tonight's game was going to bring. You have two of the highest scoring teams in the NHL so I figured it was going to be a fairly high scoring affair. Boy was I wrong. It's no coincidence that the Avs haven't won too many games when they score less than 3 goals in a game.
Throughout the first period there really wasn't much of an advantage either way. Until Atlanta was able to take advantage of some power play time. Thank goodness for Peter Budaj. He was able to withstand some early pressure stopping 8 of 8 shots through the first half of the period. Then it happened. In true "jinx" fashion, as I was typing that last sentence, Peter Budaj let in that weak shot by Rich Peverley (6th). 1-0 Thrashers. Almost on cue, after a weak goal is allowed on one side of the ice, there was a truly spectacular save by Ondrej Pavelec.
It should be noted that it is a truly great story that Pavelec is still playing hockey. If you remember back to the Thrashers home opener on October 8th, it was a truly scary sight as he collapsed just two and a half minutes into the game. Glad to see him out there.
The Avs came out of the intermission with a purpose almost immediately getting a 2 on 1 chance while the Avs were still shorthanded. Another star on that particular penalty kill was Greg Mauldin.
During most of the second period it seemed like the Avs players were squeezing their sticks a little too tight. I know there's a "TWSS" out there somewhere. In all seriousness though, they looked like were trying to fine tune their shots and as any hockey player will tell you, not a lot of good things happen when you do that.
The Avs finally earned their first power play of the night with just over five minutes to go in the second period. The power play was able to get setup and get some great pressure and a good cycle going.The Avs managed to get two shots on net during the man advantage, one of which forced Pavelec to make another highlight reel save, this time on Kevin Porter.
With just under a minute to go in the period the Avs were given their second chance of the night on a goaltender interference call against Andrew Ladd.There was a little more than a minute of carry over penalty time to begin the third and didn't get too much going.
That is, until "Mighty" Matt Duchene (7th) tied the game on a goal right through the wickets on Pavelec. After that point it seems like he took over the game. He was playing with a purpose and really pressing the issue on the forecheck. Could it have been that he was tired of hearing Avs play-by-play guy Mike Haynes' hot dog jokes? Or did he just tell himself that if no one else is going to do it that he might as well do it? Either way, it was great to watch.
The Avalanche earned their third power play of the game just over halfway into third period and it didn't take very long for the Avs power play to respond. Kevin Shattenkirk took a shot from the point that was re-directed by David Jones (11th and team leading) past Pavlec. WIth that assist by Shattenkirk he now has a point in 7 straight games. Can anyone say Calder candidate? Oh, and he also has one more point that Ilya Kovalchuk in 10 fewer games. How bout them apples Lou?
Atlanta showed why they are no longer going to be the doormat of the Eastern Conference by quickly responding. With a shot that, I'm fairly certain broke the sound barrier, Dustin Byfuglien tied the game. Peter Budaj had absolutely zero chance on that one as Nik Antropov was parked right in front setting up a perfect screen. Sure is tough to stop pucks that you can't see.
Both teams played the balance of the 3rd period at a feverish pace and it proved to be too much pace for Nik Antropov as he took a penalty as the Avs were exiting the defensive zone with 1:01 to go in the period. The Thrashers would survive the brief 4 on 3 power play in overtime and were able to kill the penalty off. Then they used that momentum to get the Avs zone. In just about as ironic of a finish as you could imagine, Chris Stewart's brother Anthony was able to tuck a shot under the left pad of Peter Budaj. No doubt Budes would like to have that one back.
Next up for the Avs, a trip to Raleigh to battle the Carolina Hurricanes.
Derek's Three Stars Of The Game
3rd Star: Kevin Shattenkirk, 1A (7 game point streak)
2nd Star: Anthony Stewart, GWG
1st Star: Dustin Byfuglien, 1G, 1A