Mueller and Hejduk returned from injuries tonight helping to fill the holes left in the wake of the trades of Winnik and Galiardi earlier today. Neither returnee factored in the first goal of the game, no, that honor went to point demon Steve Downie! Downie came in off the bench to join the play in the offensive zone and set up the guy the Avs didn't trade when his pass across hit a defenseman and deflected to Cody McLeod stationed in front of the net. #55 backhanded the puck past Hiller who had started to slide across, anticipating the pass making it through to the otherside. 1-0 Avs halfway through the first.
McClement almost scored on a 2-on-0 (or a 4-on-1 depending which feed you watched), but Hiller made a killer save. The rebound popped out past a wide open net, but all 4 Avs were on the opposite side of the cage so the Ducks were able to escape
5 minutes into the second period, the Avs got away with one when Matt Duchene batted the puck into the seats from his defensive zone, but the refs didn't see. Anaheim saw the infraction, which serves as our animal lesson of the day: Zebras have poor eyesight, Ducks don't. The refs did find their whistles eventually and called a penalty on each team in the final 4 minutes of a grinding middle frame. O'Reilly got tripped in the neutral zone and seconds into the Avs' PP, Johnson dropped Cogliano coming in shorthanded, so we skated 4-on-4 for awhile. The Ducks got a short powerplay after the foursome action, and Bobby Ryan beat Varly 5-hole to even things up at 1 going into the third.
The Avs put out their hottest line to start the third and it resulted in a Ryan O'Reilly goal and a 2-1 Avalanche lead. Downie to Landeskog to O'Reilly. Quincey who? Just minutes later, Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene broke in on a short 2-on-1 in which Stastny made a beautiful pass over a prone Cam Fowler. The puck landed on the other side of the crease and Duchene punched it past Hiller off a quick hop. The first two Avalanche goals were fortunate bounces and people in the right spot working hard. The third goal was pure skill.
After the Avs built the two goal lead, they fell back into a defensive yet still aggressive game plan. I don't know whether Sacco is finally coaching or if the boys are finally listening, but the Avs are playing with apparent purpose these days. It's like they don't like playing golf in April or something.
McClement made it 4-1 with a long shot off the far post and in with just over 5 minutes to play. It was a close, tight game until the third period. Los Angeles and Calgary lost tonight in regulation so the Avs move to 70 points and into a tie with Dallas for 8th place (Dallas has played one less game).
MHH Best Three Avs of the Night
- Semyon Varlamov, 27 saves
- Matt Duchene, 1 goal, 5 shots, +3. He's baaaa-aaack.
- Gabriel Landeskog, 2 assists, 3 hits, +2
- Landeskog - O'Reilly - Downie
- Duchene - Stastny - Hejduk
- Jones - Olver - Mueller
- McLeod - McClement - Kobasew
- O'Brien - Johnson
- Elliot - Hunwick
- Hejda - Wilson
- Very physical game tonight as you would expect from two teams clawing at each other for a playoff spot.
- How good are O'Reilly and Landeskog? They were matched against Getzlaf and Perry most of the night and effectively shut them down.
- Duchene looked much better tonight, and as a result, so did his entire line. Welcome back Boy Wonder. How do you not get dizzy spinning round and round so much?
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
The Avalanche continue the short 3-game homestand when they take on the Blue Jackets Thursday March 1st, 7pm at Pepsi Center.