BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 14: Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Colorado Avalanche takes a break during second period action against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on March 14, 2012 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
It's become pretty cliche at this point, but tonight's game was an absolute must win for the Colorado Avalanche if they wanted to keep any shot at the playoffs alive.
Thankfully the boys showed up in Calgary ready to start the game on time. They definitely seemed to be playing with a certain "jump" that had been missing from the past few games. Even though they played well enough to win in Vancouver on Wednesday, they didn't have the same kind of jump as they did tonight.
One player in particular who has really stepped his game up of late has been Mark Olver. He was finally rewarded for his stellar play over the past few weeks and was put on the top line with O'Reilly and Landeskog tonight. Unfortunately part of what made that move possible was Jamie McGinn being out with a back injury. Olver wasted little time in making an impact on the game. Just over 3 minutes into the game, the Avs and Olver earned a fortunate bounce off Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester's stick and past Miikka Kiprusoff. Originally it was thought Tyson Barrie was given credit for his first NHL assist, but since the puck went off Bouwmeester the goal was officially unassisted.
Heading into this game the Avs defensemen had a plan of being more involved offensively in the game. That's exactly what they did. Tyson Barrie clearly had a vital part in setting up the first goal of the game. Then Erik Johnson was able to completely circle the offensive zone, draw a couple of Flames players to him, then fire a puck at the net which David Jones was able to tip past Kipper. It was Jones' 19th goal of the season. On the goal Gabriel Landeskog would earn his 50th point of the season.
The Avs carried a 3-0 lead into the third period and played a slightly more defensive period than they had in the previous two. Even though this typically spells disaster for the Avs, they held it together. The only blemish tonight was the Avs inability to stay out of the box. With less than 2 minutes to play in the game Ryan O'Byrne one of the Avs best penalty killers, was called for interference. With 5 chances at the power play on the night, the Flames were finally able to solve Varly and take away his 5th shutout of the season. Ryan O'Byrne definitely owes him a steak dinner.
Peter Mueller would add an empty net goal with just over 33 seconds to play and seal a 4-1 victory. It as his 7th goal of the season.
Even thought the Avs were out shot 14-7 in the second period, and 13-7 in the third period, the Avs continued to play with a certain swagger the Flames were unable to match. Probably the single biggest difference in this game was the play of Semyon Varlamov. He tied his career high with his 7th consecutive start, and his earned every one. With every win he also sets a new career high in that category as well, tonight was his 26th win of the season.
MHH Avalanche 3 Stars of the Night
- 1 Semyon Varlamove, 38 saves, .974 save pct.
- 2 Gabriel Landeskog, 2A, now leads all rookies in scoring with 51 points.
- 3 Erik Johnson, 2A
- 1 Olver-O'Reilly-Landeskog
- 2 Jones-Stastny-Downie
- 3 McLeod-McClement-Mueller
- 4 Hejduk-Duchene-Kobasew
- 1 O'Brien-Barrie
- 2 Hejda-O'Byrne
- 3 Hunwick-Johnson
- 1 Jamie McGinn was out of tonight's game with a back injury. Hopefully the extended break between games allows him to heal up enough to play in the team's final two games.
- 2 Gabriel Landeskog earned points 50 & 51 and is now leading all rookies in scoring.
- 3 For the 7th game this season, the Avs did not get a chance on the power play. They far and away lead the NHL in games without a PP chance. They've also had more games without a power play this season than in the previous 15 seasons.
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
The Avs have the next 5 days off and will be doing some scoreboard watching, along with a little bit of hoping and praying for some help. The Avs will finish off the season with two home games, first on April 5th against the Columbus Blue Jackets.