Tonight the Avs, and Mile High Hockey's own Sandie, were in Buffalo to take on the Sabres. Buffalo seems to be the Avalanche of the East. They are currently riding a hot streak heading into tonight's tilt, having gone 9-2-1 in their last 12 games to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Buffalo came out of the gates absolutely flying. They had several great scoring chances including firing a puck off the far post just 15 seconds into the game. Then just over a minute and fifteen seconds later, a very funny play where Marcus Foligno appeared to kick the puck into the net, it may have glanced off David Jones' stick prior to heading into the net past Varly.
The Avs seemed to wake up after that goal and were able to create a few scoring chances of their own including a couple by Steve Downie, but none were able to beat the Sabres' red-hot goalie Ryan Miller.
Then the flood gates opened. With just over 13 minutes to play in the first period, Semyon Varlamov was forced to make several incredible saves, including a gigantic one Thomas Vanek as he came in alone on a partial breakaway. Less than 7 minutes into the game and the Avs seemed to already be starting to hang their young Russian net minder out to dry.
Just when things were starting to look their worst, Jamie McGinn did what he has done since showing up in Denver, score a goal. It was his 18th goal (6th with the Avs) of the season and McGinn's 8th point in as many games with the Avs. After that goal Colorado seemed to wake up and create some scoring chances of their own, and forced Ryan Miller to make some saves.
With the Avs on the power play, Peter Mueller turned the puck over in the neutral zone, Drew Stafford went in all alone. Mueller tried to get back but couldn't catch the speedy Stafford, instead hooking him from behind. Varlamov couldn't come up with the save as Stafford walked across the crease and his weakened shot bounced off of the netminder's stick and into the goal. Even if the goal had not gone in, there was a very high chance Stafford would have been awarded a penalty shot. In all honesty, I would've been ok with that with as well as Varly has played in the shootouts. It was Stafford's 14th goal (and 1st shorty) of the season and gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead with just over 6 minutes to play in the first period.
Showing the type of tenacity I've been looking for all season, the Avalanche battled back to tie the game with less than a minute to go in the first period. With a huge mass of humanity in front of Ryan Miller, David Jones was able to get a couple of swipes at the puck after Miller made a couple of great saves. It was his third swipe at the puck though, that slipped t the puck past Miller to tie the game at 2. It was Jones' 17th goal of the season.
Even though the game was tied heading into the second period, the Avs had to be less than pleased with their effort defensively in front of Semyon Varlamov. There were far too many odd man rushes, bad decisions, and all around poor play in the defensive zone and neutral zone. While I have all of the faith in the world in the team's scoring abilities, I would rather not have a full out assault on Varly.
The Avs were able to draw their second power play of the night when David Jones was tripped by Cody Hodgson at the 3:45 mark of the second period. In one of the most bizarre stats, the Colorado power play is the top ranked PP on the road, but a god awful 29th on home ice. True to form, the Avalanche were able to cash in on this power play with Gabriel Landeskog potting his 20th goal of the season with just 11 seconds left on the power play.
With just under 9 minutes to play the Avs defense again left Semyon Varlamov high and dry. This time the offending parties were Erik Johnson and Matt Hunwick who allowed Tyler Ennis to stand all alone in front of Varly and setup the perfect screen. Then came the blistering one timer from Marcus Foligno, who was able to blast it past Varly, who didn't see the shot until it was past him. It was Foligno's second goal of the game, and third of the season and tied the game at 3 goals apiece.
Colorado drew their third power play of the night when Sabres' tough guy Patrick Kaleta punched Jan Hejda in the head after slashing him. Unfortunately the Avs were not able to cash in on the PP chance.
With just under a minute to play in the second period, there was quite the ruckus created by Gabriel Landeskog. With the young Avalanche forward driving hard around the net after Miller swallowed up his shot, he was forced wide by the Sabres' rugged defenseman Robyn Regehr and hard into the boards. Landy apparently took exception to the hit and got right back in the face of the veteran defenseman. With Steve Downie apparently still upset about the high hit he took earlier in the period from Derek Roy, he decided to get into the action as well. Unfortunately this meant that the Avs were going to end the second and start the third period on the penalty kill.
Shortly after the power play had expired, an Avs' defenseman struck again...the wrong way. This time Varlamov was victimized Matt Hunwick. On a shot that was clearly going wide, Matt Hunwick committed one of the cardinal sins by a defenseman, trying to knock a shot down with his stick in front of the net. As is usually the case, he did more harm than good and tipped it into the net. Originally it appeared as if Marcus Foligno was going to be given credit for his first career hat trick, but Alexander Sulzer was correctly given credit for his first goal of the season. More importantly for the Sabres, they now had a 4-3 lead in the third period.
The Avalanche were given a huge opportunity on the power play with the Sabres' Patrick Kaleta going to the box for tripping Ryan Wilson with just over 5 minutes to play in the game. This was the first game in a long time where Colorado earned more power plays than their opponents. Unfortunately the Avs were unable to take advantage of this power play.
With Semyon Varlamov on the bench for the extra attacker, the Avs were able to get a significant amount of pressure on the Sabres and create several scoring chances...AND IT PAID OFF! The play began with Gabriel Landeskog driving the puck hard into the offensive zone with less than 2 seconds left in the 3rd period . He got the puck in deep, took a shot that Miller blockered aside. Ryan O`Reilly threw the puck toward the front of the net. It ping-ponged off of some Buffalo players (including Ryan Miller) and Jamie McGinn was able to bury his 19th goal of the season (and second of the game) to send the game to overtime.
During the overtime period both teams were really forcing the issue and trying to win. Several scoring chances were created by both squads and both goalies came up huge for their respective team, not giving an inch in overtime and the game was headed to the shootout.
As we've seen this season, if the Avalanche can make it to the shootout, they are absolutely money. Varly has now won all 8 of the shootouts he has faced this year and Colorado has improved to 9-1 overall in the shootout this season. Talk about a HUGE two points for the Avs, they now sit in 7th place in the Western Conference.
- 1 Jamie McGinn, 2G
- 2 Gabriel Landeskog, PPG (His 20th of the season), the Calder can't be too far off...can it?
- 3 Paul Stastny, 2A
- 1 McGinn-Stastny-Jones
- 2 Landeskog-O'Reilly-Downie
- 3 Mueller-Olver-Hejduk
- 4 McLeod-McClement-Porter
- 1 O'Brien-Wilson
- 2 Hunwick-Johnson
- 3 O'Byrne-Hejda
- 1 This was the first meeting between these two teams since January 4th, 2011, a game in which the Avs won 4-3 in overtime back in Denver. The Avs haven't traveled to Buffalo since January 9th, 2010 where they also won 4-3, where that one was also decided in a shootout.
- 2 Despite how well Varlamov played in recent games, his defense continues to betray him on a nightly basis. Tonight was no exception.
- 3 Gabriel Landeskog. That is all.
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
The Avalanche will travel across the New York State Thruway and the New Jersey Turnpike to take on the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night where the "Mighty" Matt Duchene will make his triumphant return to the lineup a couple weeks ahead of schedule.