With the Avalanche missing their Captain for the first time in this young season, I was looking to see what kind of jump the Avs were going to come out of the gate with. While I didn't think the start was exceptional, it was right on par with their other games in the short season thus far.
One continued point of emphasis was to be more disciplined, especially in the defensive zone. They didn't start out so well in that regard as Greg Zanon took a holding penalty. Fortunately the Avs PK uint contained the young Oilers Power Play unit. Shortly after the Avs killed that penalty, they would get a power play of their own. To say that power play was inept, would be putting it nicely.
At the 13:24 mark of the first period, Jamie McGinn took a holding penalty (are you beginning to see a theme) as the Oilers were breaking out of the zone, another unnecessary penalty. This time though, the Avalanche were unable to kill the penalty. With just one second remaining on the penalty, Ales Hemsky was able to bury a loose puck in the crease after Varlamov made several stops in close. 1-0 Oilers.
Again, the Avs undisciplined ways would come back to haunt them just about two and a half minutes later. This time with Matt Duchene in the box for tripping, Jordan Eberle let an absolute missile of a wrist shot go that beat Varly high over the blocker. 2-0 Oilers.
The Avs would have a chance to gain some momentum back though as Sam Gagner was called for a trip on John Mitchell with just seven seconds remaining in the first period. With the penalty carrying over into the second period, the Avs would get an opportunity to get their power play set up on a fresh sheet of Edmonton's historically phenomenal ice. Unfortunately the Avs weren't able to get any momentum back as they couldn't score on the power play.
For most of the first 8 minutes of the second period, the play was even. You might even say the Avs had the better of the scoring chances. Then the Avs did what the Avs did what they have become good at; taking a dumb penalty. This time it was Ryan O'Byrne who was called for holding. Can you guess what happened next? If you said the Oilers scored a power play goal then you would be correct. This time it was a double deflection which Varly had ZERO chance of stopping. Shawn Horcoff was given credit for the goal as it trickled over the goal line off his skate. 3-0 Oilers.
The Avs did manage to gain a little momentum as they were given a power play opportunity when Lennart Petrell was called for "smothering the puck". This has been a new point of emphasis from the NHL and I have to say, I like it. It cuts down on stoppages from scrums in the corners and taking away flow from the game. This power play was the Avs best chance to get on the scoreboard. They were setup in zone for most of the power play and got several great scoring chances. Unfortunately they weren't able to get a shot past the 6'8" Devan Dubnyk.
Shortly after the Oilers killed that penalty, they were able to draw another call on big Greg Zanon. This, to me, was one of those "on the line" calls. The referee called it hooking. I could maybe see it being called interference, if anything at all. Fortunately for the Avs though, they were able to kill the penalty and escape the second period with only one more goal against them. Overall, the second period was exponentially better than the first. The Avs out shot the Oilers 11-7 and had the majority of the scoring chances. The difference in the game to this point was special teams; the Oilers were executing, the Avs were not.
Coming out for the third period the Avs were going to obviously have to step up the offensive pressure, even if that meant they had to get into a "track meet" with the young, speedy Oilers. That pressure paid off in the first half of the third as the Avs absolutely dominated the play. The payoff was when P.A. Parenteau notched his 3rd goal of the season as he was left unmarked right on the doorstep and slammed the puck between Dubnyk's legs.
The pressure didn't stop there though, if anything the Avs turned up the pressure even more. Sensing they had the Oilers on the ropes, the forecheck was relentless. The shots were coming from just about anywhere they could get a decent angle. The pressure was so intense that with more than 5 minutes to go in the 3rd period, the Avalanche were outshooting the Oilers 19-3. Yes, that's no typo, they were outshooting the Oilers 19-3 with more than 5 minutes to play in the 3rd period.
It was mentioned during the Altitude broadcast, one of the biggest question marks about Edmonton this year was going to be the play of their 6' 8" goaltender and whether or not he has the skills to be a true number one goalie in the NHL. Well, if his play in this game is any indication of where he is going, I'd say he definitely has the skills to play in this league for a long time.
In the end though, this game was a story of too little too late. To add insult to injury, Nail Yakupov scored an empty net, power play goal with just 33 seconds to play. In the end, the penalty kill was only able to kill off 2 out of 6 penalties. There's no way the Avs can continue to take penalties like they have over the first 5 games of the season, and expect to win. Would the penalty kill be better if Ryan O'Reilly and Jay McClement were in the lineup? For now all we can do is wonder.
Derek's Three Stars of the Game:
3rd Star: Sam Gagner (2A, 4 Shots)
2nd Star: Devan Dubnyk (37 saves on 38 shots)
1st Star: Jordan Eberle (GWG, 5 shots)
Next up for the Avs, a trip to Vancouver for a game on Wednesday night.