Finally. After winning eight straight games at the Pepsi Center, the Colorado Avalanche welcomed back an old trick to their repertoire: winning on the road. The Avalanche won their first road game since October 22nd, dropping the Minnesota Wild in convincing fashion 4-2. Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Jan Hejda and T.J. Galiardi scored for the Avs, and Semyon Varlamov turned aside 20 of 22 shots to extend the Avs' winning streak to 5 games.
In the preview, I noted that there was some chippy play in the last game and tonight's game started right where they left off the last time. The Avalanche recorded some solid hits on the very first shift, and Shane O'Brien ended up with an interference call just 37 seconds in for his hit on Cal Clutterbuck. Unfortunately, things turned a bit ugly a few minutes later when Cody McLeod hit Jared Spurgeon hard into the boards from behind, earning him a 5-minute major and a game misconduct and knocking Spurgeon out of the game with an apparent leg injury. Frankly, the hit looked ugly and Shanaban-worthy, although Mark Rycroft did deftly point out during the intermission that Spurgeon strangely appeared to lock up his skates as he was getting hit, greatly exacerbating the severity of the hit. True or not, I would be really surprised if Cody Mac avoids a suspension here.
In many games, that play would spark a great deal of nasty play, but, strangely, that wasn't the case here. The Wild seemed uninterested in pushing the physical stuff any further, and the Avs followed suit. There were a lot of penalties in the game, but nothing of a particularly nasty nature. Overall, there were just 27 hits in the game.
The Wild did score during McLeod's major penalty. Overall, though, the Avs penalty killers turned in another solid performance. Each team spent about 13 minutes on the power play and each team had 1 PP goal. But the Avalanche PP had 15 shots, but the Minnesota PP managed just 6. The Avs' PK continues to be a real strength...and, yes, it feels really strange to type that.
I thought this game was a really solid effort throughout for the Avs. The score was tied 2-2 entering the 3rd, but the Avs were the better team through the first 40 minutes and turned it up a notch in the 3rd period. Jan Hejda scored the winner at the 10 minute mark and T.J. Galiardi sealed it with a nice shot through traffic three minutes later. Semyon Varlamov, starting for the first time in 5 games, was solid in net. He didn't have to be spectacular, which is a testament to how strong the Avs are playing defensively as of late (again, feels weird to type that).
The Avalanche have pulled back into the playoff race with solid goaltending, good defense and excellent penalty killing. Depending on how the later games go tonight, the Avalanche could be in a position to crack the top 8 tomorrow night in Denver. Even if the chips don't fall the right way tonight, this is a different team than the one that laid an egg in western Canada three weeks ago. Man, I'm sure glad that anticipated coaching change never happened!
MHH Avalanche 3 Shiny Things of the Night
- Ryan O'Reilly. In game 37, O'Reilly matched his career high of 26 points
- David van der Gulik. The new dad had his first 2-point game in the NHL
- T.J. Galiardi. Two points including a big goal to seal the game for the Avs
- Landeskog, O'Reilly, Hejduk
- Duchene, Stastny, Winnik
- Malone, McClement, Galiardi
- McLeod, Porter, van der Gulik
- O'Brien, Johnson
- Hejda, O'Byrne
- Hunwick, Elliott
Kyle Quincey continues to be a healthy scratch, raising the ire of Matt Hunwick haters. I know some think Quincey is sitting because there's a deal waiting to happen once the roster freeze is over, but don't discount the fact that the Avs are winning. Maybe Sacco just doesn't want to mess with what's working? Oh, and Hunwick is playing solidly, in my opinion.
- We all know about the 8-game home winning streak. Tonight's game was also noteworthy. It's the first time an Avalanche team has had two separate 5-game winning streaks in a season since 2000-2001. Honestly, after stumbling on that stat, I had to check it twice to be sure as it really surprised me.
- van der Gulik is +4 in 5 games with the Avs
- The reported attendance was 19,290. Did they renovate the Xcel Center? I thought their capacity was about 18,000?
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
The Avalanche are home to play the new Jets in Denver tomorrow before facing the old Jets on Thursday.