Sweep!

Doug Pensinger

The rematch with the Capitals went much like the first game this season and the Avalanche and Semyon Varlamov improved to 14-2 on the season with a sweep of Washington.

Another early season rematch, but instead of the 11th game against Dallas, the hometown faithful were witness to a visit from the Washington Capitals.  The blueberry jerseys also made a return appearance in the last game of the current homestand.  Important early season points (home game, Eastern Conference opponent) were on the line Sunday night in Denver before a packed house at the Pepsi Center.

Roy emphasized a strong start to this game to help set a tone for the upcoming road trip.  An unlikely contributor made sure that happened in the first period. Strong possession by the top two lines was supplemented less than 3 minutes in when a strong forecheck by Marc-Andre Cliche and Patrick Bordeleau resulted in a gift-wrapped puck on Cody McLeod's stick in the slot.  He knifed a high shot toward the net and Bordeleau knocked it down beneath a jumping Braden Holtby.  The goal was reviewed for a high stick but Toronto voted pretty early that it was a good goal and the Avalanche led 1-0 early in the game.

The first period continued to be the Avalanche show early as the top two lines were flying up and down the ice and creating chances.  Holtby was called on often and made some solid saves as the top 6 forwards were seemingly everywhere.  Even when the weren't defensemen like Erik Johnson and Andre Benoit were pinching in and maintaining the possessions.  Duchene had a great bounce go his way just before the 6 minute mark but his clear breakaway and jock-removing deke of Holtby was negated by a timely hook by Karl Alzner.  I gotta say I agree with Mark Rycroft at intermission: should have been a penalty shot.  Instead we saw about 1:30 of good power play time from Colorado.  Holtby and the Washington PKers stood tall though.  Shots were about 8-0 Avs at this point.

The Caps started to generate some more meaningful opportunities and caught Duchene between an Ovechkin/Backstrom 2-on-1, but a bouncy puck snuffed that one out.  The ice started to even out and the Joel Ward line reminded everybody that they were a beast in the last game.  Washington had a strong couple of minutes at the end of the period, but the Avalanche managed to close out the frame up 1-0.

The second period started much like the first ended: Washington driving play.  Alex Ovechkin flopped on a high-stick call and would likely have had a goal if he'd stayed on his feet since Semyon Varlamov had kicked out a rebound right to him.  New guy Maxime Talbot and rookie Nathan MacKinnon had a good rush but neither could bury a backhand opportunity.

Less than five minutes into the period Jason Chimera disagreed with an offsides call and got a 2 minute break for his potty mouth.  Colorado had to continually regroup due to good PK work from the Capitals, but when they did establish the advantage they worked the puck around to get MacKinnon a point blank shot in the slot.  Holtby made a good save and the next unit got a couple of good chances from the sticks of Jamie McGinn and P.A. Parenteau.

Varlamov started to get involved in the game as the second period progressed.  He stopped Ovechkin on a point blank shot generated from a Caps face-off win.  He also stopped a great point shot off of his shoulder seconds later.  Radar answered the bell with a takeaway and steal from Niklas Backstrom.  He stormed down the ice but Holtby was able to get a pad on the breakaway shot.

Talbot got tagged for a tripping call at the nine minute mark and the Avalanche penalty kill had to go to work for the first time on the night. Varlamov proved to be the difference maker as he made save after save on Brooks Laich and the boys in blueberry were laying down to take away shots. The Avs managed to kill it off though and Landeskog even had a decent chance after the kill was over.

The chances started to go back-and-forth before the Caps managed to get on the board.  But it wasn't from a play on the rush, but off of an odd face-off win. Paul Stastny won the faceoff STRONG to the back boards and everybody went to their breakout positions, including the inside defenseman, Cory Sarich.  Unfortunately, nobody told the puck and it pinged right back into the slot to a waiting Joel Ward who walked Varlamov in close and slid the puck home.  1-1 game.  For about 30 seconds...

The Avalanche drove into the Caps' zone off of the center ice drop and eventually Gabriel Landeskog reversed behind the goal line, walked clear and layed one on a tee for a net-driving Nick Holden.  Holden punished the puck for its prior insolence and Holtby never saw it.  2-1 Colorado with 3:44 left in the period. If you watch the replay of this goal, watch the work that Jamie McGinn is putting in on the crease's doorstep.  The period ended with Jan Hejda taking his dancing partner, Alex Ovechkin, hard into the boards with an uncalled trip.  Ovechkin milked it including a visit from the trainer. He was back up and didn't miss a shift.  The boo birds came out in force after that as the period closed out with the Avs leading in shots 28-20.

The turd period jumped up with some early good work at both ends of the ice by Colorado.  MacKinnon made a heads-up backhand pass from behind the net to Talbot in the slot but it superballed away. Varlamov made another big save, this time off of countryman Mikhael Grabovski.  Erik Johnson continued his strong night by hammering Martin Erat after Mike Green dinged one off the crossbar.

The Capitals got their best chance of the game after Sarich was called for a trip on Tom Wilson.  After Colorado won the faceoff and got a good clear, Ovechkin led a rush up ice amidst a chorus of boos.  Unfortunately for the home crowd, the Avs couldn't count and had too many men on the ice.  The Caps had possession though and worked the puck around the zone for over 30 seconds before Varlamov was able to get a whistle with a gut trap.  Roy wanted to know why the play wasn't whistled earlier when the Avs touched it.  He was a little unhappy with the timing of the call.  MacKinnon would serve the bench minor and the 3-man PK unit of Cliche, Guenin and Hejda clocked in.  Some great containment and passing lane blocking (and shot blocking too) by all three was rewarded when they killed the one minute 2-man advantage.  Hejda had so much fun he stayed out for the almost the rest of the 5-on-4!  He was doing some solid work and deserved a quality massage after the game.

With just over eight minutes gone in the period, Matt Duchene went to work too.  He put on a edge control clinic behind the net and mesmerized the Caps D.  He then put a quick pass to P.A. Parenteau who didn't miss from about 7 feet!  3-1 Avalanche with just over 11 minutes to go.  But Sarich wasn't done yet!

After Duchene got date-raped in the corner for no call, Sarich figured anything goes so he "interfered" with Grabovski.  Patrick Roy had a few words with the zebras.  The PK was back at it and only gave up one shot on the kill.  Ovechkin grew frustrated and gave McLeod the business in front of the net.  McLeod returned it with a little interest and the result was Ovechkin in the box for roughing with five minutes to go.  The Avs' powerplay generated 3 shots but no goals.  One of those would come after though...

Not long after Ovechkin kicked a puck into the net for a no-goal, Landeskog broke out of his end and pushed the play along the boards in front of the benches.  He recongized Ovechkin in a defensive position, and while it was somewhat like a unicorn/black astronaut in its rarity, the captain didn't freak out.  He slipped Ovechkin's weak-sauce hip check and beat Holtby with quick wrister between the pillows.  STICK DISCIPLINE BRADEN!!!  4-1 good guys.

Roy rewarded his lines with two shifts for Bordy and Co. in the waning minutes before closing out the 14th!!! win of the season.

MHH Three Stars

  1. Semyon Varlamov - 33 saves and helped keep the #1 PP off the scoresheet
  2. Holden - 1st NHL goal and a solid night's work with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 18+ minutes of icetime.
  3. Jan Hejda - 21 minutes on the ice, 5:46 of it shorthanded, 4 blocked shots, and handled Ovechkin all night.
Honorable Mentions: McGinn was a beast on the forecheck all night, as was Mitchell (71% in the dot); Duchene with another dominant game; Johnson was flying again tonight; Talbot was 67% in the circle; MacKinnon was fa blur all night, but could seem to finish. 

Lines

  • O'Reilly & Duchene (Slap Fight!) + Parenteau
  • Landeskog - Stastny - McGinn
  • MacKinnon - Talbot - Mitchell
  • McLeod - Cliche - Bordeleau
  • Hejda-Johnson
  • Sarich-Benoit
  • Holden-Guenin
  • Varlamov
- Healthy Scratches: Hunwick
- Injury:  Tanguay (knee), Wilson (back)

Quick Hits

  • Power play was crisp, but still lacked finish.  I do enjoy Ginner in front of the net though.
  • Guenin and Holden looked pretty good for a 3rd pair.  Guenin continues to impress with his work on the PK too.
  • Cliche showed some toughness with a couple of good blocks on the same shift in the third.
  • McGinn nearly killed Landy when he leaped at him during the celebration.
  • MacKinnon with 4 shots to go with his 16+ minutes of ice time including nearly 3 minutes on the PP.
  • Holden's wife and son were on hand to see his first NHL goal.

Next Up

Tuesday 5 @ pm mountain as the road trip begins in Carolina with a rematch against the Hurricanes.

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