Here's the two things you need to know about the game, in order of importance. It seems like Ryan O'Reilly is going to be okay, and the Avalanche won. O'Reilly fell awkwardly into the boards early in the 2nd period and lay on the ice for a long time before carried off on a stretcher. It was an innocent play in development as he and a Wild player were both chasing down a puck along the sideboards. But O'Reilly lost an edge and ended up launching head first into the boards. It was a scary, scary incident, but he was reported to have movement and feeling afterward and was being taken to a local hospital as a precaution. Adrian Dater tweeted after the game that he was expected to fly home with the team, which is a huge relief.
As for the game? Well, it had a bit of an electric air about it beforehand, but it never really materialized into anything and not just because of the O'Reilly injury. After the last game, it seemed clear that these two teams have some bad blood between them. In fact, I think you could argue that the Wild are the team the Avs have the most bad blood with right now, which, admittedly, is not saying very much. Joe Sacco started David Koci ahead of TJ Galiardi and Brandon Yip tonight, and I think that had more to do with the game situation than any unhappiness with the two youngsters. The Avs' two biggest tough guy regulars are Chris Stewart and Cody McLeod, both of whom were returning to the lineup tonight after missing time due to injury. I think Koci was in there to be the tough guy tonight if anything started up.
That never happened though. The first period was kind of tentative. There was some hitting, but most of the focus seemed to be on defensive play for both clubs. Neither team was able to get much going offensively and the transition game the Avalanche used to be known for seems all but a distant memory. The Avalanche found a way to get a couple in the net, though. First, Kevin Porter reeled in a looping pass by Philippe Dupuis before beating Wild goalie Anton Khudobin. With that goal, you could bank on an Avalanche win, as the Avs have yet to lose this year when Porter gets a point. Milan Hejduk added one of his own late in the period when he somehow found a path to the net through traffic to give the Avs a 2-0 lead. One interesting thing about the PP goal: Cody McLeod was out there on the power play, working in front of the net. Could we see more of that in the future?
O'Reilly went down early in the second period, and what little life either team had at that point dissipated even further. If anything was going to develop tonight, it was over. The game continued to have a defensive leaning. The Avalanche caught a break when Tomas Fleischmann's innocent blueline shot took a funny bounce and beat Khudobin to make it 3-0.
The Wild pressured a bit in the 3rd, and scored early on when Mikko Koivu made a brilliant spin move behind the net before he fed Andrew Brunette in front. That would be the only goal for Minnesota, though. Craig Anderson was in control all night long and appeared like his old self tonight. And the defense, for the most part, played very well in front of him. And yes, that includes Matt Hunwick. It wasn't perfect, but the Avalanche had a very good game defensively, and killed off all 4 power plays against them.
Offensively, though, there wasn't much to write home about. I'm sure O'Reilly's injury had an emotional impact, and the Avalanche did have a lead for most of the game. But that's two games in a row where the Avs had very little jump offensively. Worrisome? Maybe a little. But there's plenty of time to fret about that. For now, we should be thankful for the win AND wishing Ryan O'Reilly a very speedy recovery.
- Fleischmann, Duchene, Stewart
- Jones, Stastny, Hejduk
- Winnik, O'Reilly, Koci
- McLeod, Dupuis, Porter
- Liles, O'Byrne
- Hunwick, Foote
- Wilson, Shattenkirk
Stewart and Hejduk swapped spots by the 2nd period.
- Ryan Wilson led both teams in hits, with 5 (and one big near-miss)
- Paul Stastny topped the Avs with 23:06 in ice time
- 2 of Hunwick's 3 points with the Avs have come against the Wild
The Avalanche are off for the weekend. They host the Canucks on Tuesday, the start of a 5-game homestand