They're back. The Avalanche are back in 8th place with a dramatic come-from-behind overtime win against the Florida Panthers. And Peter Mueller finally got off the snide, scoring his first goal since April 4th, 2010. And then he scored the 2nd goal and assisted on another. Welcome back!
The first period was fairly droll, with not a lot of sustained pressure in either zone. Ryan O'Byrne scored the only goal of the period. Unfortunately, he scored it on his own net as he was trying to sweep away the puck from Marcel Goc. The goal came in the waning minutes of the only PP on the period; Shane O'Brien celebrated his return to the lineup by taking his 19th minor penalty of the season (in fairness, it looked like kind of a weak call). All in all, not much of a period. Panthers lead 1-0 at the end, although Shawn Matthias took a high-sticking penalty as time expired, put a PP kitten in danger to start the 2nd period...
...and, it went nowhere. The Avs managed zero shots, but oddly seemed to pick up their game dramatically after we returned to 5 on 5. They kept up the pressure and finally banged one home. Erik Johnson unload a blast from the point, and the rebound went right to the stick of Peter Mueller, wide open in front of the net. Mueller seemed a little unsure of what to do (it has been 20 months since he last scored a goal), but after a brief hesitation rifled it five hole. With the goal, he became the 22nd Avalanche to score this year. 4 more to go to top last year!
The Avs continued to be the better team for the bulk of the period (they outshot the Panthers 16-10), but a defensive breakdown and a controversial goal late in the period put the Panthers back on top. Stephen Weiss broke in ahead on the rush up the middle. Ryan O'Byrne was oddly playing close to the boards and high-tailed it back to position. All should have been okay, though, because Kyle Quincey was back. Weiss deked the pants off of Quincey, then got tripped by Quincey and pushed by O'Byrne...and yet he still powered toward the net. Now on the ground, he bumped Giguere out of the way and maybe even pushed the puck in with his glove. The refs reviewed the play for a long time, but it stood. The Avs nearly tied it again with chances by Stastny and Mueller (who rang a slapper off the post earlier), but went to the locker room down a disappointing 2-1.
It got worse. Just 20 seconds into the 3rd period, a funny bounce landed on Tomas Kopecky's stick all alone to the left of Giguere. Just like that, the Avs were down 3-1. Right away, Florida gave them a chance to come back with Kris Versteeg going to the for interference. The Avalanche couldn't do anything with that one, but got another chance almost right after when Florida was called for too many men. In an act of desparation / mad genius, Joe Sacco went with 5 forward for the powerplay - Stastny, Hejduk and Landeskog down low with O'Reilly and Mueller at the point. It was one of the prettier powerplays the Avalanche have had all year (or in several years), with O'Reilly feeding Mueller for a one-timer through a Landeskog feed. It. Was. Gorgeous.
The Avs could then focus on tying it up, but first had to kill a 4 minute high-sticking penalty to Jay McClement (bad penalty, dude). Thankfully, Giguere turned aside all 5 shots he faced. The Avs continued to put pressure on the Panthers. With about 5 minutes left, the 4th line had a strong extended shift deep in the Panthers zone, setting the tone for the next shift by the Stastny line. Stastny ended up with a backhander on Theodore and continued to the net putting him in perfect position to slam home the rebound to tie it up with less than 4 minutes left. Stastny's production has been poor, but he's scored some BIG goals lately.
The OT was almost all Panthers (and all Elliott turnovers) until Jose Theodore finally showed a flash of his old Avalanche form, letting in a very soft goal by Ryan O'Reilly to end the game. With the win, the Avs jumped from 10th to 8th in the standings. More importantly, though...at least for one night, Peter Mueller got his mojo back.
MHH Top 3 Avs of the Night
- Peter Mueller. This time, scored 3 points without getting clobbered by Rob Blake, was within a post of his 3rd career hat trick
- Paul Stastny. Two points and that tying goal was clutch.
- Ryan O'Reilly. The big winner, and another dominant night in the circle.
- Landeskog, O'Reilly, Hejduk
- Galiardi, Stastny, Mueller
- Winnik, McClement, Jones
- McLeod, van der Gulik, Kobasew
- Wilson, Johnson
- O'Brien, O'Byrne
- Quincey, Elliott
- With Mueller's goal and the demotion of Brandon Yip, Matt Hunwick is the only skater on the current roster without a goal this year.
- Tonight marked just the 3rd time this season that both O'Reilly and Stastny scored a goal in the same game. (12/4 and 12/15 being the others)
- David Jones had 10:57 of ice time, zero shots and had just one shift after the 2nd period.
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
The Avalanche take their last SoCal road trip of the year, playing in LA on Saturday night and Anaheim on Sunday.