Whew. They didn't win it in regulation, but the W flag flies high tonight just the same. It was a close, hard-fought battle that literally was decided by a few inches. For a while, it looked like Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart would be triumphant in their return to Denver, but Ryan O'Reilly and Semyon Varlamov led the Avs to a big win. The Avs win back to back games at the Pepsi Center for the first time since January.
This may come as a huge shock to you, but the Avalanche started out a little slowly in the game. The Blues had 8 of the first 11 shots in the period and the Avs mustered no shots on an early PP opportunity. Just under 8 minutes in, Paul Stastny put the Blues on the PP with a tripping call. The Blues at that point were 1 for 46 on the PP and the Avalanche had killed off 14 straight penalties. You don't have to be Alanis Morisette to know what happens next and you don't need to be Miss Cleo to know who'd do the damage: the Blues promptly scored on the PP with former Avalanche Kevin Shattenkirk making a beautiful shot from the point go in. Shattenkirk had a terrific game tonight and led all players in ice time. Thankfully, that was his only point of the night.
The Avalanche would knot it up exactly 5 minutes later. Milan Hejduk led the play into the zone, ahead of the rest of his linemates coming in on a change. Hejduk looked like Tyler Arnason against the Oilers, zipping in and out between 4 confused Blues players. After an extended shift deep in the St Louis zone, the Blues finally managed to get it out, but Ryan Wilson was right there in the neutral zone to drop it back in. He moved it up to Ryan O'Reilly who headed behind the net before kicking out to Hejduk, who scored his 9th of the year. Great shift by a fun new line of O'Reilly, Landeskog and Hejduk.
Blues 1, Avalanche 1. Shots STL 12, COL 8
I didn't like this period from an Avalanche perspective. Both teams got into a bit of a horse race here in the 2nd with lots of long, back and forth plays but not a lot of sustained pressure. But, while I felt the Avs held their own physically in the first, I thought St Louis had a decided physical advantage in the 2nd. It seemed like they were muscling Colorado around a lot, and nowhere was that more visible than on the lone goal of the period when Patrick Berglund, Chris Stewart and Ian Cole literally ran over the Avalanche defense and pushed their way to the go ahead goal. The Avs have had some brutal periods this year and this was definitely not the worst, but it wasn't their best either.
Blues 1, Avalanche 0. Shots STL 16, COL 11
The 3rd was the Avs best period. It took them a little while to get rolling, but the pressure built steadily until O'Reilly's wicked wrister tied it up about 10 minutes in. It was a simple looking play, with Hejda moving it to O'Byrne on the point who moved it up to Radar in the slot, but the shot was a beauty. I probably don't need to point out the obvious, but this O'Reilly kid can really play.
The Avalanche have to kill off a penalty in the 3rd (Stastny again, this time for delay of game), but Varlamov was just a rock after the Berglund goal. Jaroslav Halak was solid at the other end and made a terrific goal-line pad save (on O'Reilly again, of course) with just 2 seconds to go to send the game to OT.
Avalanche 1, Blues 0. Shots STL 7, COL 11
The Avalanche appeared to win this one with 16 seconds left when Ryan O'Byrne's backhander hit Halak and bounced on the goal line. Halak scooped the puck out with his glove while the ref signaled goal immediately. Halak was confident that he had stopped it in time and the replay left little doubt that he was right. The Avs' big celebration was all for naught...Halak had yet again snatched victory away from the Avs at the last second
No Scoring. Shots STL 2, COL 5
The Avs have been ridiculous in the shootout, winning 14 of their last 15 going into the game. It's now 15 of 16. Milan Hejduk flubbed his attempt and Matt Duchene couldn't get his shot over Halak's pads, but O'Reilly's forehand fake, backhand roofer was enough for the Avalanche, as Varlamov stopped all three attempts at the other end (note to other teams: you aren't going to get past those pads, so don't bother trying).
O'Reilly and Varlamov were the big heroes in the game, but lots of Avs not named Stastny had solid games - Duchene, Hejduk, O'Byrne and Wilson to name just a few. The Avs have crept to 4 points behind that final playoff spot and have a BIG week coming up (Detroit, @ Vancouver, @ Calgary, @ Edmonton). A few more efforts like tonight and they might just put a little roll together.
MHH Avalanche 3 Stars of the Night
- O'Reilly. I had him penciled in at #1 even before he scored the tying goal and long before he scored the winner in the shootout
- Varlamov. Goals allowed in last 5 games: 2, 2, 1, 2, 2. Save percentage in those five: .940
- Hejduk. Toss up between him and Duchene. Captain gets the nod for that 1-on-4 clinic leading to the first goal
- Duchene, Mystery guy wearing #26, Jones
- Landeskog, O'Reilly, Hejduk
- Winnik, McClement, Kobasew
- Porter, Galiardi, Yip
- Wilson, Elliott
- Quincey, O'Brien
- Hejda, O'Byrne
- The Avs were 0-4 on the PP and mustered just 3 shots in 6:56 with the man advantage.
- Varlamov has stopped the last 10 shootout shots he's faced
- O'Reilly now leads the team in scoring, with 19 points
- The Avs blocked 1 shot in the first 40 minutes (O'Reilly, 15:57 of the 2nd) and 7 shots in the final 25.
- Landeskog is +7 (!) over the last 4 games and is now tied with Ryan Wilson for the team lead at +5.
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
The Avs go for three in a row on Sunday as they close out the home stand against Detroit.