It's been 291 days since the Avs last home game and it showed with the long line to get into Pepsi Center for tonight's home opener versus the defending Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings - Doug Pensinger
Well ladies and gentlemen, it's been 291 days, but NHL hockey is back in the Mile High City!
There was a lot of energy from both teams early on in the first period, as both teams were looking to improve on their first games of the season; For L.A. it was a 6-2 beat down by the Blackhawks and for the Avs it was the 4-2 loss in St. Paul, MN. Before the game Head Coach Joe Sacco stated that he wants this team to be "difficult to play against" night in and night out. The Avs started out the first period in Minnesota the way they wanted, but weren't able to play a full 60 minutes. The team was obviously looking to, as Joe Sacco likes to say, "Start the game on time".
Unfortunately the Kings were the first team to get onto the scoreboard. With Tyson Barrie caught deep, after pushing the offense, the Kings pushed the play hard up the ice. Barrie did everything he could do to get back in the play, but the Kings had an odd man rush. Jordan Nolan was able to get a quick shot off of Varlamov's pads and the puck squirted right to Kyle Clifford, who buried the puck into an open net as Varlamov anticipated the shot from Nolan.
The Avs were able to gain a small amount of momentum back, as shortly after the goal, P.A. Parenteau was assessed an "iffy" tripping call, a penalty the Avs were able to kill off. The Avs would head into the intermission down 1-0. Like Mark Rycroft said during the intermission report, if the Avs played the entire game the way they played the 1st period, they would be in trouble tonight.
As the second period got underway, it was clear the Avs were going to ramp up the physical play. Unfortunately it would cost the Avs, as Steve Downie would head to the locker room less than 3 minutes with a right knee injury, he would not return to the game.
If I could only use one word to describe the Avs' second period, it would be "undisciplined". If it wasn't for some stellar penalty killing, this game could have gotten out of hand quickly.
Tyson Barrie and his offensive prowess tried to atone for his early mistake, which cost the Avs the first goal against of the game. As he was carrying the puck deep in the Avs' offensive zone, his speed forced big Dustin Penner to hook him and draw a penalty. Then, just 30 seconds later, Drew Doughty, arguably the Kings best penalty killer, was given a two minute minor for high sticking. The Avs would get a full minute and a half of a two man advantage but would not be able to get the puck past Jonathan Quick.
With just over 2 minutes to play in the second period, the Avs' undisciplined ways showed up again as Jan Hejda was called for closing his hand on the puck. This is new area of focus for NHL officials this year in order to speed games up. Again, fortunately for the Avs, their penalty killers showed up to play and they were able to kill off 5th power play of the night thru that point in the game.
The Avs came out of the second intermission absolutely flying! Exactly one minute into the period Gabriel Landeskog was able to bang home a rebound off the back wall off a hard shot from the point by Hejda and tie the game at a goal apiece. Then, just a minute and 35 seconds later, David Jones was able to corral the puck in the slot off a failed clearing attempt by the Kings, went bar down on Jonathan Quick to give the Avs a 2-1 lead. Following those two huge goals, the Avs were back in the game, the Pepsi Center crowd came to life, and everything seemed to be going the Avs way.
With the Avs still riding that emotional high, they continued to force the play. It would pay off as the Avs would extend their lead to 3-1 as P.A. Parenteau would bury his 1st goal in an Avalanche sweater as he slammed the puck off of Quick's left pad and in.
With the Avs taking care of their two goal lead, everyone except for Tyson Barrie got the memo in between periods about staying disciplined. The last thing the Avs needed at this point, was to give the Los Angeles Kings any reason to believe they were still in this game, and that's what Barrie's ill timed penalty did. Again, fortunately for the Colorado, the penalty killers stepped up in a big way again. I, personally, have seen enough of Mr. Barrie. I think both Shane O'Brien and/or Matt Hunwick are better defensive options than him. It's just not worth his offensive "upside", especially when every game in this shortened season matter so much.
Varly played an absolutely stellar game in net for the Avs tonight and deserved the win!
Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star: Matt Duchene (1A)
2nd Star: Semyon Varlamov (28 saves)
1st Star: Gabe Landeskog (1G)