The Avs started strong again and forced Jimmy Howard to come up with a few big saves early. The Avs drew first blood thanks to Milan Hejduk knocking the puck off a Detroit defender's stick to a wide open Paul Stastny who didn't miss. Detroit managed to tie it up less than a minute later with everyone's favorite new defenseman as the main culprit. First, Matt Hunwick turned over the puck to Detroit's forecheck, never a good sign, and then he lost Jan Mursak in front of the net. Mursak collected the puck and slid it around Peter Budaj. Fortunately, the next ten minutes belonged to the Avalanche. First, Tomas Fleischmann took a hit to spring Matt Duchene, who turned on the jets and slipped a quick shot through Howard's legs. Greg Mauldin drew a penalty when he was hit away from the play and a few seconds after it ended, Kevin Porter scored an entertaining goal. He whiffed on a shot from the slot and took another slap at it, sending it weakly wide of the net. Luckily it bounced off Jonathan Ericsson's skate (fresh out of the box) and into the net. Just a couple minutes after that, David Jones took a big hit to spring Duchene and Fleischmann on a two on one. Dutchy and Flash played the passing game perfectly and Duchene got an easy goal (I do so hope he is turning into a Detroit killer). This led to Howard getting pulled. Which is hilarious.
The Wings are not a team to stay on their heels for long though and started to turn up the pressure in the last five minutes. Ryan O'Reilly got called for a weak goaltender interference call and Budaj had to make three very nice saves to kill it. But a defensive zone turnover after the penalty again gave Detroit a goal. Darren Helm pressured Adam Foote and knocked the puck loose. He passed it out to Brian Rafalski who walked into the slot and whistled one by Budaj. Finally, Duchene almost got his first NHL hat trick thanks to a great rush with Jones. Jones carried the puck up the ice, two on two with Duchene and muscled his way by the Detroit defenders while Duchene slipped past, creating a 2 on 0. Jones passed and Duchene deked around Joey MacDonald but the Detroit goalie got lucky when the puck hit his skate and then the post and bounced out. Phew. Damn fun period of hockey.
Contrary to my expectations, the Avs controlled play for the first part of the second period. Nicklas Lidstrom was out trying to slow the tide for much of the first eight minutes or so. It was to no avail though, as the Avs scored the next goal. The Red Wings managed to get a 3 on 2 going but Kris Draper missed his shot and it hit the backboards hard enough to bounce it out of the zone. Duchene and a hustling Jones got another 2 on 1, this time with Duchene making the pass and Jones dekeing MacDonald (who played it horribly) but Jones didn't miss. This seemed to wake up Detroit and they started playing much better. Budaj made a couple of big saves including one against Todd Bertuzzi that was probably more luck than skill but still very satisfying. But Colorado took a penalty and are still absolutely terrible on the kill. Budaj tried to cover the puck after stopping a point shot but Tomas Holmstrom poked it out of his glove and Henrik Zetterberg tapped it in. After that the game slowed down a little and Colorado ended the period basically in the same position they started it.
The Red Wings controlled play right from the beginning of the third period, outshooting the Avs 5 to 0 in the first five minutes. The Avs took a stupid too many men penalty which led to Sacco looking as pissed as I've ever seen him. Detroit, of course, made them pay. O'Reilly lost his stick which allowed Zetterberg to get set up for a point shot. Our old friend Holmstrom was planted in front of the net as always and tipped it under Budaj's glove. Detroit continued to pour it on for the rest of the period but a combination of luck, some great play by Budaj and the third line, the Avalanche managed to hold on for a 5-4 win. I don't think it can be understated what a huge win this was. The Avs really, really needed a win to close out this home stand and getting it against Detroit with some great offense was fantastic. Hopefully this sends the Avs on a streak to get some breathing room in the West.
John-Michael Liles knocking Holmstrom on his ass when he was hacking at Budaj was fantastic to see.
- Budaj's 26 saves on 30 shots might not look great on the face of it but I don't think he can be faulted for any of the goals and he made some enormous saves.
- Nik Lidstrom was a -3 tonight. How often does that happen?
- Sacco limited Hunwick's TOI to 13:41 tonight. Maybe there will finally be consequence for his poor play? On the other hand, he limited Jonas Holos to 11:03. Why?
- Jones was frigging awesome tonight. Duchene got the first star but I think it should have been Jones.
- Fleischmann pushing on Jones to send him past Rafalski before his 2 on 1 goal was great.
- Porter, Stastny, Hejduk
- Fleischmann, Duchene, Jones
- Galiardi, O'Reilly, Winnik
- Yip, Dupuis, Mauldin
- O'Byrne, Liles
- Foote, Wilson
- Holos, Hunwick
Chicago is up next. Think the Avs can sweep the season series?