The Avalanche decided to celebrate Assistant Coach Sylvain Lefebvre Night by putting on a defensive show in the third to shut down the Montreal Canadians in the Pepsi Center. You read that right: DEFENSIVE SHOW. It wasn't the most entertaining show as the PK was pretty putrid to watch at times and I was this close to throwing something at the TV for the myriad of new and interesting ways the Avs gave the puck away in their own end, but a W is a W. With the 2 points from tonight's game Colorado moves into sole possession of the Northwest Division and 3rd in the Western Conference.
The game started out pretty boring considering the last few games. The first goal wasn't scored until about halfway through the first period when Phillipe Dupuis got called for a high-stick on media darling P.K. Subban (I bet he was Suba-pissed) putting the Habs on the power play. It took Montreal all of 10 seconds to generate a give-and-go off a botched clear at the blueline. Michael Cammalleri and Thomas Plekanec played pass-pass-give until Cammalleri buried it over Craig Anderson. Honestly, I think Andy got caught a little flat-footed there as he seemed to be a little deep in his crease for a puck that started out at the blueline. He wasn't the only one as the PK thought the best way to ensure a clearing attempt was for 3 out of the 4 PK'ers to occupy a 4 foot square area.
The rest of the period was fairly even but I thought the Avs had the better chances in the 2nd half of the frame. Montreal seemed to counter with rushes and cycles that generated opportunities, just not great ones and Andy and Co. were up to the task. Right around the 2 minutes left mark, the Avalanche get their first power play of the game when Jaraslov Spacek hooked a hard-charging Paul Stastny. The first PP unit generates some chances, but nothing happens. I honestly thought the 2nd unit looked horrible and out-of-sync until a rolling puck finds Ryan Wilson's stick at the left point and he fired it into the far upper corner of the net. through tons of traffic. Pretty sure Montreal goaltender Carey Price never saw it. Game tied 1-1 after one.
The second period opens with me craving some chocolate spoon cake but the Mrs. won't let me indulge until the boy is in bed. Avalanche captain Adam Foote and Hobs forward Scott Gomez indulge in some sweet nothings to each other after Brandon Yip gets tagged for a pretty blatant interference call. Habs back on the PP and this time we get treated to an old Avalanche nugget of "Stickless Defenseman." It's Foote again who has his stick ripped out of his hands and when the ensuing shot and rebound come to his side, he is helpless to watch Alexandre Picard pot Montreal's second man-advantage goal of the night. Aww, biscuits.
Colorado answers right back though as Matt Duchene and John-Michael Liles create something beautiful together before a breakout pass is intercepted by Kevin Porter just inside the neutral zone. He basically beat his man to the spot, carried the puck into the zone, protected it on his backhand and then slides a quick backhander between Prices pristine pillows to knot it back up at 2. Basically.
Dupuis and SoS are out on one of the many Franken-lines as a result of the 7 defensemen in the lineup. They get a clean 2-on-1 but Price makes a spectacular sliding glove save to rob Dupuis of the go-ahead goal. Immediately after that, Andy holds court on a turnaround wrister in the slot at the other end of the ice to keep the game tied. During these sequences Yip is a one-man-wrecking crew. Unfortunately, he's hitting the guys in Burgundy, not white. Dupuis and Co. continue to generate pressure on the instances where the Habs forecheck is broken and we aren't treated to Wilson or Jonas Holos turnovers ON THE SAME SHIFT. Shortly thereafter Liles gets knocked down in front of his own net and while the ensuing power-play is possession-filled and awesome looking, it doesn't put anything on the scoresheet.
It isn't until we see a flashy glove save from Price that things start to get interesting again. The Avs decide to take Price out of the equation and crash the net hard with T.J. Galiardi and fan-favorite (at least the smart ones) Greg Mauldin. Ryan O'Reilly is trailing with the puck and puts a hard shot on Price. The rebound falls in the crowd and somehow slides through Price's legs for the go-ahead goal with just less than 4 minutes left in the period. The scorer credits Gali for his second goal in as many games since coming back from injury.
After a high-stick on Wilson, Sacco calls his timeout to gather the troops to try and put the dagger in Montreal on the ensuing power play. It doesn't work and even though the Avs have a furious flurry of shots, rebounds, kicked shins and ferocious board work in the final two minutes, the period ends with the one-goal lead intact.
The third period is still prior to bedtime and I'm still sans cake. No lie. The Altiboobs open the third period with the graphic explaining that the Avs are 10-0 when leading going into the third and Montreal is 0-10 when trailing. The jinx masters at Altitude have really turned it up a notch this season. Way to bring your A-game boys. Predictably, Montreal comes out with all the jump in the first three plus minutes of the third. Andy and the D stand tall and keep most of the pressure to the outside and control their end well. Specifically Andy has a textbook diving poke-check on Andrei Kostitsyn after he spurts out of a pack along the wall for a mini-breakaway. Things settle down a little with the teams trading thrill-less possessions full of board play and grinding dumps and chases. Then Matt Hunwick gets his pocket picked and trips the Montreal player leading to another Habs powerplay. The first minute of the PK is stellar work by Radar and Co. as Montreal can't even get it in the zone. The second minute of the penalty kill sees plenty of Montreal possession but not a ton of shots. Unfortunately, the Avalanche can't regain control and the Canadians get almost another two minutes of zone time as Colorado can't get a change and takes repeated icings. Since Sacco has burned his timeout, that's not an option.
Matt Duchene's line (David Jones and Tomas Fleischmann) manage to give as good as they get once the Avs get a change, but can't solve Price. I noticed a distinct lack of Foote and Holos in the first half of the third period, but that could have been due to the super shift noted above. A broken stick in the Colorado end confuses Kevin Shattenkirk and he flings the puck off the ice for ANOTHER Montreal power play. This PK features some of the ugliest penalty killing in recorded history as the puck is in and around Andy for substantial portions of the 2 minutes, but nobody can catch a pass or bury a rebound and the Avs escape. This started a trend of Anderson wandering around his crease and behind the net for the remainder of the third period. I guess he wanted to make sure the crowd got their excitement if the boys weren't going to score 56 goals tonight.
The remainder of the period was nerve-wracking to watch at times, but Andy and Co. just had to be good, not great to escape with the win. Long story short, Montreal had 14 shots to the Avalanche's 5, but the Boys in Burgundy and Frostbite Blue held on for the 6th win in a row. The overall shots were pretty even with 28 for Colorado and 29 for the Habs. Once again, the Avs had to come back from one-goal deficits multiple times (twice) in a game to give the near capacity crowd something to worry about.
Jones-Dutchy-Flash: This was the only line that was intact for the entire night. The rest of the forwards rotated (except for Koci; He had 2:52 of ice all night) and SoS seemed to get double-shift duties for the most part.
The seven defensemen were kinda mish-mashed as well with the exception of Liles and Ryan O'Byrne. I will say this though, I never wanna see Foote pinching again while Liles is on the point. It was like Bizzarro land or something. The Wilson and Hunwick pairing on the second PP unit seemed odd, but it got results despite Brandon Yip's persistent running-into of his own teammates.
- I love me some Mauldin and his acceleration and his tenacity. He's got a motor and isn't afraid to use the body. He's probably the best fore-checker on the team right now.
- The crowd buzzed every time Duchene had the puck on his stick and turned up ice. It was palpable.
- Anderson got an assist on Wilson's seeing-eye PP goal. It's his first since exactly one year ago today. That's not creepy at all.
- The Altiboobs mentioned during the open that Kyle Quincey is done for the season with shoulder surgery.
- Three stars: #3 Cammalleri, #2 Anderson, #1 O'Reilly. The Factor was ALL over doing yeoman's work at both ends of the ice and had two assists to show for it.
- Everybody on the squad was even or plus for the night.
- I thought I saw Andy giving one of the Habs the business at the end of the game and apparently he got called for a slash at the 20 minute mark.
L.A. Kings on Tuesday night.