The Avalanche needed a point tonight to move into first in the NW Division. They didn't play like it. As per the norm, the Avs appeared to play down to their opponent. After 40 minutes, the Thrashers had a small lead on the scoreboard (2-1), a modest lead in the shots category (27-18) and a sizeable lead in the effort category. And when Nik Antroprov buried an ugly clearing attempt by Craig Anderson to make it 3-1, it was looking like first place wasn't going to happen on this evening.
But this club absolutely refuses to die. The Avs have really only been completely out of it in two games this year - the 6-1 loss to Washington and the 8-2 loss to Vancouver. In every other loss this year, the Avalanche have been no worse than 2-goals behind with 10 minutes or so to go. To me, that's been one of the most amazing aspects of the team this year - no matter what happens, the Avalanche find a way to crawl back in it. Sure, they can look terrible trying to hold a lead, but they look absolutely marvelous when trying to erase a deficit.
Down 3-1 early in the 3rd period, the Avalanche had two options. Continue to mail it in, or put the pedal to the metal. They chose option B. The Avalanche began to swarm, dominating the play the rest of the way. The tragically sparse crowd of 11,644 started to get energized. Chris Stewart was up first, stuffing his rebound around Atlanta's Johan Hedberg to cut the lead to 3-2. They kept on coming. With just under 6 minutes left, Chris Durno scored the biggest goal of his NHL career, sweeping the puck in as he dove to the ice. It was a controversial goal: Atlanta claimed that Cody McLeod knocked Quincey's point shot down with a high stick. They probably had a case, but that still was a hell of a goal by Durno. It would have been the highlight of the game for sure...
...had it not been for Kyle Cumiskey. With the game going to overtime, the Avalanche officially moved into 1st. But the Avs weren't done. More properly: Kyle Cumiskey wasn't done. Cumiskey grabbed the puck on the opening faceoff and carried it into the zone, maneuvering through four Thrashers like a hot knife through butter. He gained speed as he went, and finished it off with a blast past Hedberg. Just 9 seconds into OT, the Avalanche had a huge, huge win.
They only played hard for the final 10 or 15 minutes and Atlanta probably deserved the win tonight. But the Cardiac Kids pulled the rabbit out of the hat yet again. Welcome back to the top of the division boys. Congratulations. You've
earned...er, done it. Again.