A myriad of playoff implications were in play tonight as multiple teams in the 12th-to-8th spots in the Western Conference got back to action following the All-Star break. One of those games was between the 9th place Avalanche and the already-out-of-it Edmonton Oilers. Semyon Varlamov made his first start in net since January 16th and Ryan O`Reilly made his return from illness. The Avs hoped to get to .500 against a lackluster Northwest division foe but dug a hole early and couldn't get back out.
The game started with some quick, back-and-forth action with the Avs controlling the majority of the possession and had some great opportunities with O'Reilly's and Stastny's line both getting some good pressure. Unfortunately, that pressure didn't amount to much. Not content to discuss the game, the Altiboobs decided they'd introduce their man-crush for this game: Jordan Eberle. Of course he responded with a goal just short of the five minute mark. He drove the back of the net, selling the wraparound before reversing for the stuff. Varlamov got his leg back for the first save, but didn't have the leverage to prevent Eberle from tucking the rebound in. Sam Gagner and OKC stalwart Phillipe Cornet got assists.
Jan Hejda drew a penalty after a nice hip check earned the ire of Ben Eager. One GREAT shot from O'Reilly was tipped on net by Peter Mueller but genetic aberration Devan Dubnyk made a great save. That was pretty much the highlight of the period for Colorado at even strength. The Avs decided to treat the Edmonton faithful to an extended look at the home team power play after plenty of back-and-forth action in the middle chunk of the period as T.J. Galiardi got tagged for a four minute penalty due to a high stick on Theo Peckham. The Oilers moved the puck around the zone well and Eric Belanger sent a slapshot past a screened Varlamov to give Edmonton a 2-0 lead. The goal occurred in the first half of the double minor, but the Avs managed to kill the last half of it (and the remainder of the period) before heading to the lockerroom with a 11-6 shot differential to Edmonton's favor. The Alberta crowd was treated to a Chuck Kobasew's fumbled puck on the short-handed breakaway with a Dubnyk pokecheck to cancel out that moment of excitement for the visitors.
The Avs came out with some jump to start the period and less than two minutes in a Frankenline of Paul Stastny, Chuck Kobasew, and Mueller hit paydirt after Kobasew threw a puck across the crease. Mueller held his ground for the tip in to get Colorado on the scoreboard and back in the game. Stastny credited with the other assist on the goal. The Avalanche followed up the great start with even more pressure as the forecheck went into overdrive. They spent most of the next 6-to7 minutes in Edmonton's zone. Dubnyk got his second ping of the night during one of those sustained stretches.
By the nine minute mark the Avalanche had closed the shot gap to 12-12 with constant pressure and multiple chances. The period settled in a little and the Oilers pushed back with some aggressive forechecking of their own. Varlamov made some quality saves during this stretch, including a good glove save on Eberle as well as some solid work through traffic. Lots of neutral zone play commenced before a great read and hustle play by Stastny at the Edmonton blue line drew a penalty with a broken stick due to a two hander from Golden Fingers Eberle. A WEEEEEEAK start to the Power Play (the passing was indicitive of broken wrists and faint hearts) and one soft dump on net were the only things worth mentioning. Jay McClement's line generated a good shift at the end of the frame, but the Colorado went to the intermission with only half of the goal differential made up (shots: 18-19 Oilers).
The third period started much the same as the 2nd with sustained pressure by Colorado. Stastny had a a great net-drive from the corner and the Avs force Dubnyk to be solid in the first three minutes of the period. He continues to stand tall and after a great shift in the Oil end by Stastny's line, the play quickly went down the to other end and a bad-angle Ales Hemsky shot off of Varlamov's right pad landed on a streaking Taylor Hall's stick for the slam dunk with about 6 minutes gone in the period. 3-1 Oilers.
The Avalanche, to their credit, answered with more sustained pressure and were rewarded. Some great passing and reads by the O'Reilly's line (namely his rebound-inducing shot to the far side leg pad) and a net drive by Milan Hejduk (of all people) left Gabriel Landeskog with a chance to bury the backhand past a well-out-of-his-net Dubnyk. Landeskog extended his point streak to 4 games with that goal. 3-2 Oilers with shots at 23 apiece and nearly half of the period remaining.
More sustained possession throughout the remainder of the period with great plays by David Jones to pin it deep, a good check on Hall by Quincey, some good back-checking by Landeskog, and a near miss of a deflected shot from Stastny.The Avs were all over the Oilers at this point. In particular, O'Reilly made a great play at the point to keep a puck alive and then had a sure goal taken away by Dubnyk as he slid over and trapped the puck in the seven hole.
An Edmonton high-stick garnered an offensive zone faceoff and coach Joe Sacco took his timeout. He pulled Varlamov and ran 5 forwards with Johnson. They generated some intermittent possession, but don't do much quality with it. Lots of scrambling to the buzzer, but ultimately nothing to show for it except another loss to a
shit less than outstanding team, this one in their own division.
MHH Bestest Three Avs of the Night
- Landeskog - O'Reilly- Hejduk
- Galiardi - Stastny - Mueller
- Winnik - McClement - Jones
- McLeod - van der Gulik - Kobasew : Kevin Porter is the forward watching from the pressbox with O`Reilly returning.
- O'Byrne - Hejda
- Quincey - Johnson
- O'Brien - Wilson: Elliott and Hunwick are both healthy and both on nacho duty.
- His errant stick earned Galiardi a whopping ZERO for TOI in the 2nd. Kobasew was rewarded with his spot and O'Reilly double-shifted on the 4th. I thought it worked pretty well.
- Landeskog had a good game IMO. He shoots every time the puck is on his stick, he hits, he battles, and he forechecks like a beast. He has a point streak because he works his tail off. I hope we don't see a rookie wall this season because he's a treat to watch.
- Taylor Hall got roughed up in this game. Two big hits in the 3rd period in particular had him on the bench wincing. He finished the game though.
- SCORING EFFECT ALERT!!!: Final SOG totals: COL 33 EDM 23
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
Colorado welcomes fellow Winter Classic shaft-ee on Thursday when the face the Minnesota Wild in the Pepsi Center at 7:00pm.