Tonight, it was all about an A for effort...but it still resulted in an L. The injury-depleted Avalanche unexpectedly put up 38 shots on the Nashville and Ryan O'Reilly had one of his better games in an Avalanche uniform. The Avs have mailed in a lot of performances lately, including most of Friday night's game against Anaheim. This was a welcome exception. The end result, though, was familiar; the Avs lost 4-2 and have now lost 18 of their last 19 games.
It looked like this was going to be a par for the course game. The Preds got a couple of early goals - both just after time expired on an Avalanche penalty - to take a 2-0 lead. The Avalanche were without Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny tonight, as they join folks like Peter Mueller, Tomas Fleischmann, John-Michael Liles and Kyle Quincey on the tragic list of talented players on the shelf. Dan Winnik, Kevin Porter, Mark Olver and David van der Gulik all spent some time along with David Jones on the top two lines with Radar and Matt Duchene. No offense to the first four, but those are not top 6 forwards by any stretch of the imagination. Hell, I'm not sure Jones has shown enough consistency to earn that title yet, despite his 23-goal season. At any rate, with so much fire power missing and facing a 2-goal deficit, I didn't have high expectations.
But, the Avalanche did not quit tonight and I, for one, applaud that. For the first time in a long time, the Avalanche had great success dumping the puck in deep and winning the race to the puck. After the first 11 minutes or so, a large chunk of this game was spent in the Nashville zone. By the end of the first period, the Predators had the lead...but the Avs had the momentum.
On Friday, the Avs' 2nd period was their worst. Tonight, it was their best. They outshot Nashville 16-8. O'Reilly scored early in the period banging home a rebound, and Winnik scored a big goal late in the period when his point shot bounced in off a defenseman's skate. O'Reilly appeared to score a 2nd goal in the period, but it was waved off because his stick was above the crossbar (still hate hate hate this rule). Unfortunately, the Avs' one big mistake in the period was a costly one. Not long after Radar's non-goal, Jay McClement tried to force a long, cross-ice outlet pass from inside his zone and it was anticipated perfectly by Nashville's Joel Ward, who intercepted and made a dazzling move to deke Peter Budaj out of the net. That gave the Preds a 3-1 lead at the time and was ultimately the game winner. O'Reilly had a breakaway coming out of the box, reminiscent of his goal on Friday, but his backhander dinged off the crossbar. The Avs had chances to tie it up, but fell short and Martin Erat scored a needless empty netter with 2 seconds left to seal it.
Tonight's game was one of the better efforts we've seen from the Avs in a long while. They came up short in the end. But, it's tough to feel too disappointed considering the names of the players missing in action tonight.
- Porter, O'Reilly, Jones
- Olver, Duchene, Winnik
- McLeod, McClement, Yip
- Koci, Dupuis, van der Gulik
- Johnson, O'Byrne
- Wilson, Foote
- Hunwick, Holos
- The Avalanche had just 6 skaters in the lineup tonight with at least 200 games of NHL experience: Foote, McClement, Winnik, McLeod, Johnson, Hunwick and 5 who have yet to reach 100.
- In the absence of Stastny and Hejduk, the A's were worn by Johnson and McLeod...for reasons probably explained in the previous bullet point.
- With 4 righties in the lineup, Johnson played the left defense position. As we've discussed, he's clearly comfortable doing that as we've seen him on the left side a number of times already since the trade.
Ryan Wilson nad Jordin Tootoo had an extremely entertaining fight tonight, with both landing a number of hard blows that the other was able to overcome. Unfortunately, immediately after the fight, the classless Tootoo danced around the arena gesturing like a fucking idiot. But Dan Winnik getting mugged in the crease is unsportsmanlike conduct. Got it. Oh, and can someone explain to me how Johnson's hit was interference?
The Avs have a break before a NW trip with stops in Vancouver (Wednesday), Calgary (Thursday) and Edmonton (Saturday)