All the talk heading into this game was good. In the morning's interviews the Avs seemed fired up and ready to respond to their 7-3 drubbing by the Blues on Thursday night. The Avs entered the game highly motivated, having lost 2 consecutive for the first time all year. Florida played the night before, traveled into high altitude last night and despite it all, elected to play the half fossilized Tim Thomas for the second night in a row. Entering tonight the Panthers were 4-12-4 and had scored first in just five of their twenty games. All the ingredients were there for a strong first period.
Tonight those ingredients added up to, well.. a big fat nothing. To their credit, the Avalanche came out with some good speed at the very beginning of the period and registered a solid 6 shots on net in the first few minutes of the game. When Jonathan Huberdeau took a tripping penalty at 3:42 seconds, it looked like the Avalanche were ready to strike and tilt the ice significantly in their favor, but in what's becoming a disturbing trend of late, they laid an egg on the power play, failing to register a shot on net and quickly losing the momentum they'd built up in the first few minutes.
The game slowed down significantly after the Avalanche "power" play with both teams playing really sloppy hockey, especially in the neutral zone. 8 minutes into the game Gabriel Landeskog was called on a very light interference penalty when Thomas Fleischmann toppled over some skates after making contact with the Avs captain. Though the Panthers league worst power play didnt do much to capitalize on the opportunity, the man advantage did begin to tip the ice in their favor for the remainder of the period. 2 minutes later the Avalanche would head back to the penalty kill as PA Parenteau took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone (all the away down below the Panthers goal line). The Panthers did a decent if unspectacular job of possessing the puck and generating offense but were unable to score on the power play. On the next shift Matt Duchene was clearly high sticked by Scottie Upshall in the defensive zone. Looking for the call, he abandoned his man along the goal line and left Cory Sarich to defend the 2 on 1. Upshall sent the pass across the crease where Brad Boyes buried his 7th goal of the year. 1-0 Panthers.
The Avs played scared, sloppy hockey from there on out. Just when Matt Duchene's line started to retake some momentum with a good chance in Thomas's crease, Nate Guenin took a 4-minute minor penalty for high sticking Jonathan Huberdeau and drawing blood. The Avs did a good job closing out the period on the the penalty kill, but would come back into the second period with another minute and a half left to kill. Could they do it? Would they start the second period strong? Well.. No, they wouldnt, but we'll get there.
After starting the period with a 6-1 lead on shots, the Avs finished trailing 14-10 in shots and worse, 1-0 on the scoreboard.
When you give a team 8 minutes of power play time in the first 22 minutes of a game, they are going to score, no matter how low their power play ranks, and score they did! Early in the period Thomas Fleischmann dinged the left post and just as the Avs looked like they may kill the penalty off Jamie McGinn failed to clear the puck for the Avs. On the ensuing Florida possession, the puck cycled back to Brian Campbell on the left point, where he fired an absolute rocket to the top right corner to put the Panthers up 2-0.
This was a bit of unfortunate goal as Varlamov's feet were tangled up with Erik Johnson as Campbell took the shot. I think Varly may have had it if he hadn't been pulled down at the last second. Unfortunately the Panthers second goal did little to spark an Avalanche comeback. In the next 5 minutes the Panthers would absolutely dominate the possession game and force Varlamov to make a number of impressive saves, including a 1 on 1 chance with Florida's Krys Barch. 7 minutes into the second period Florida lead the Avalanche in shots 21-11. Yikes.
The Avalanche finally caught a bit of luck when Ryan O'Reilly flew down the right wing with the puck before attempting centering pass to a streaking John Mitchell. The puck bounced off Tom Gilbert's skates and past Tim Thomas to cut the lead to one.
The Avs started to tilt the ice back in their favor following the their first goal, in part due to Coach Roy's pretty drastic line changes partway through the second period. For the rest of the evening the Avs would go with the following:
Talbot - Duchene - MacKinnon
Landeskog - Stastny - McGinn
Mitchell - O'Reilly - Parenteau
The Avs really started to take control of this game midway through the third, including a nice one timer from Nathan MacKinnon in the high slot. But as was the case all night, every time things started to look up, somebody was headed to the box. This time it was Jan Hejda sitting in shame after a stick crushing slash along the Avalanche bench. The Panthers were once again dangerous on the power play, but Varlamov stood tall, making an outstanding pad save on Marcel Goc with just 17 seconds left on the PK. The crowd was pumped and building buzzing as they prepared for the Avalanche to take the puck back at the Panther at even strength and then THE RETURN, THE RESURRECTION, THE REVIVAL, THE HUNWICK!!! On a harmless dump in to the Avalanche zone, Thomas Fleischmann hit Hunwick in the chest with a puck, the puck dropped directly in front of the Avalanche defensman and Florida's Tomas Kopecky. Rather than "defend" Matt Hunwick was absolutely turnstiled and sent a spinning slash at Kopecky who breezed by him and beat Varlamov all alone to regain the two goal lead. Florida 3 Avalanche 1.
The Avalanche registered a few more shots on net to end the period, including a bomb from the point by Erik Johnson at the end of the period, but their response to the goal wasn't much to write home about. Instead of amping up the offense, or passing better, a lot of Avs players started running around looking for big hits. Not really what you need down by two. Patrick Roy did pull Varlamov for a sixth skater with 1.5 seconds left in the period, the new Avalanche Coach is clearly not afraid to pull his keepers for some extra offense.
4 minutes into the period Thomas Fleischmann got the puck all alone in the slot for Florida as Nate Guenin and Nick Holden BOTH went behind the Avalanche net to chase a Panthers forward. Luckily Varlamov stood tall. On the next shift, Paul Stastny failed an easy clear and on the ensuing play Jonathan Huberdeau missed a slam dunk on a wide open net. It took the Avalanche 7 minutes to muster up an impressive 4 shots on net, one of which was a distant Nick Holden slapshot that was headed wide, the other three weren't good enough for me to remember them. Nathan MacKinnon made a nice move through the neutral zone but was flipped upside down by Kulikov on a pretty great hip check, no call was made and there probably shouldnt have been.... but the Avalanche bench spent a long time upset about the non call. When you hand one team 10 of the first 22 minutes on the power play with ticky tack shit like Landeskog's "interference" and Parenteau's "hook" there is some expectation that you will eventually give a power play back to the other side. Not here I guess, Florida had 4 consecutive power plays.
The Avs turned up the offense but were unable to get anything past the flailing wall that is Tim Thomas. Max Talbot had an excellent chance standing in the crease, but rather than lift the puck, shot it flat along the ice three consecutive times into a sprawling Tim Thomas. The Avs kept up the offensive pressure and Ryan O'Reilly had an excellent one-timer in the high slot but was stopped by the toe of Thomas. With 8 minutes left in the game the Avalanche got involved in a big battle in their own crease. With 4 Avs below the faceoff dot, not a single man was able to muscle the Panthers away from the net and Jonathan Huberdeau fired the puck past Varlamov untouched by the Avalanche defense. 4-1.
Nothing else worth writing about in this one. Piss poor effort in a pretty important game as the Avs head into a really tough stretch of games. This one really couldnt go much worse.... Oh wait, except Matt Duchene left the game with an injury in the third, so that makes it worse.
MHH Three Stars of the Game:
1. Cody McLeod's Wife: She brought life into the world, seriously, what did you do today?
2. Cody McLeod: He helped? I guess.
3. Erik Johnson: 20:29 TOI and solid again, despite weak backchecking and forechecking from the forwards most of the night.
- After starting the season 12-1 the Avalanche are 1-4 in their last 5 games.
- Avs are the only team in the Western Conference without a loss in overtime.
- Patrick Roy "I hate to lose a game like this in front of our fans." It was a pretty full house, but it emptied out quick with 5 minutes on the clock and a three goal deficit. Hope a stinker like this doesnt drive new fans away.
- Avs have scored 1 meaningful goal in each of their last three games (those two late in St. Louis didnt mean much)
- Best case scenario? Avs shake off this streak and get back to battling for 60 minutes. Worst case scenario? Well we've seen it before.
- Matt Hunwick is still not very good at defense. On a totally separate and unrelated note Stefan Elliott has 3 goals 9 points and 45 shots in 15 games in Lake Erie and Tyson Barrie has 6 assists and 14 shots in 6 contests. #FreeTysonBarrie
Duchene has an injury to his oblique muscles. We'll know more tomorrow. According to Rycroft it could be "4-6 hours or 4-6 weeks, every one is different." Hope for the former.
Next up the Avs face a riled up Chicago club (they lost 7-2 tonight). Tuesday night at 7 the Avs will take on the reigning Stanley Cup champs as they look to end the skid.
From there the Avalanche face Phoenix, LA, St. Louis, Minnesota, Minnesota. That's a huge test for the Avs, especially if Matt Duchene misses time with an injury.