The Avalanche weren't perfect tonight, but were much, much better than we've seen lately. The Avs were better in all facets of the game, including the most important one: final score.
Much of the game - good and bad - revolved around Brandon Yip. The Avalanche dominated much of the first period, outshooting the Blues 15-9. The only break from that was the two minutes the Avs had to kill while Yip was in the box for slashing. There was no score after the first period, though, as the two Slovakian goaltenders got off to a solid start, especially St Louis' Jaroslav Halak who made some big saves in the opening frame.
Yip started the scoring off in the 2nd, when his innocent shot along the ice from the blueline fooled Halak. Halak had been excellent up to that point, but let in an incredibly soft goal there. I'm not sure why, but the Avs seem to get more soft goals on the Blues than any other team in recent memory. Halak shook it off though, and the Blues gathered steam after killing off a penalty not long after Yip scored. With the momentum now in their favor, the Blues scored a couple of goals to take the lead. First, Brad Boyes made a beautiful pass to Jay McClement from behind the net and a little later he made a nifty behind-the-back pass to a pinching Eric Brewer to give the Blues a 2-1 lead. Yip tied it late in the period, taking advantage of some powerplay time made possible by the benching of Chris Stewart. Yip gathered up his own rebound at the side of the net and hustled around to the far post, just barely beating Halak to knot the game up at 2.
In the 3rd period, Yip was a factor again, when his face was the unwelcome recipient of a high stick by Boyes. The Avalanche got a 4-minute powerplay out of the deal, and, frankly, looked awful. The Avalanche didn't get their first shot until about 3 minutes in. Luckily, that shot was by Kevin Shattenkirk who took advantage of a Ryan Stoa screen to roof it over Halak's shoulder. Less than a minute later, Stoa scored what would be the game winner when he intercepted a sloppy clearing attempt and got a shot that squeaked past Halak and just barely inched over the goal line before a Blues player cleared it out. Originally, the goal was waved off, which had have Stoa feeling snakebit. Thankfully, Toronto got it right this time and awarded Stoa his first goal of the year after a review. The Avs then had to kill a Brandon Yip penalty and then weather a ferocious late-game push by the Blues. David Backes scored with 90 seconds left after knocking down an empty net shot by Philippe Dupuis and the Blues had a couple of "oh crap" chances after that, but the Avalanche held on.
Peter Budaj didn't get a lot of mention in the recap, but he had a very solid game tonight. He was good enough to win. For a change, the team in front of him was too.
- Jones, Duchene, Hejduk
- Stoa, Stastny, Stewart
- McLeod, Dupuis, Yip
- Winnik, Galiardi, Koci
- Liles, O'Byrne
- Cumiskey, Foote
- Wilson, Shattenkirk
- Chris Stewart sat out the 2nd half of the game, but was on the bench. He was last seen on the ice for the Brewer goal, and Brewer would have been his man to cover.
- With his goal, Shattenkirk tied with Cam Fowler for the rookie defensemen scoring lead.
- Ryan Stoa had a solid game and seems much more confident than in previous stints. Nice to see one of his reviewed goals finally count.
- Average NHL experience of the Avs 3 goal-scorers tonight: 41 games.
The Avalanche host the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday. Phoenix will be playing in Edmonton the night before, so this will be a great opportunity for the Avs to carry some nice momentum into the All-Star break.