The Avalanche came out with all kinds of jump, taking the play at Phoenix relentlessly for the first 5 minutes of the game, but an unlucky call against Sgarbossa for cross-checking (Vermette caught an edge making Sgarbossa's light little back pat look like a savage stampede of hate and evil) halted the Avs' forward momentum putting them down a man early. But the NHL's best home Penalty-Kill (yes, you read that right) killed off the penalty. In fact, the Coyotes didn't get their first shot on goal until after their power play, about 7 and 1/2 minutes in. But just as the Altidudes commented on how Phoenix had been shut out for almost 4 straight periods, Shane Doan snuck a quick back hander off a wrap around past Varlamov to put the visitors up 1-0. Not a good goal. Maybe it hit a skate or something? I hope....
A few minutes later Matt Duchene's speed caused Phoenix to take a penalty to negate a breakaway (this is quickly becoming a trademark for Dutchy), but despite a decent looking powerplay that kept the puck in the Phoenix zone almost the whole 2 minutes the home team could not capitalize.
With exactly 6 minutes left in the first, Cody McLeod lined up to take a face off and apparently was offended by the concept and abruptly dropped gloves with Kyle Chipchura. McLeod won the fight and then skated by his bench and politely shared some of his pep with his comrades. Bordeleau tried to engage in some fist-a-cuffs off the same face off, but McLeod, wait for it,....... beat him to the punch.
The Avs would kill another penalty (Shane O'Brien made the boxscore!) and the period ends with the good guys down a goal, but not for lack of trying. The Avalanche doubled-up Phoenix in shots 16-8 - and these weren't the usual benign Avalanche hailmarys from the boards and bad angles. The Avs created multiple opportunities in and around the crease, on the fly or with some strong cycling, but Mike Smith stood tall.
Mark Olver singlehandedly got the Avalanche back in the game just over 2 minutes into the 2nd after he stole the puck off a Coyote stick with an aggressive forecheck. The Avs worked hard keeping the puck in deep and Hejduk set up Olver in the high slot for a one-timer that looked like it defelcted up high off a Coyote stick and over Smith's shoulder. Score tied 1-1 off Olver's first of the year - and he earned it.
A minute later Bordeleau finally got to punch somebody, unfortunately he caught mostly helmet and had to go off the ice to get fixed up. While Humpty Dumpty was being put back together, an up and down broken play went from bad to rad as Duchene sprung out on a breakaway and beat Smith with a great fake to get the Phoenix goaltender moving and then slid the puck underneath him to put the Avs up 2-1. The Avs' focused attack in the first carried over into the second and just 4 mins in the Avs turned the tide. Nice.
Towards the end of the 2nd there was some 4-on-4 action after Duchene and Yandle (diving) were handed minors. This is really only worth mentioning because whatever happened on the play Phoenix lost Steve Sullivan to a Game Misconduct, apparently he needed his mouth washed out with soap. Too bad for Phoenix as the Avs handed them a long 5-on--3 and Sullivan was brought in this past offseason to beef up their PP. The Avs got some help from the post, but were able to get out of the second unscathed and nursing their 2-1 lead into the third.
Some scary moments early in the third when Eric Johnson took a hit up high on his head/jaw from the giant Martin Hanzal. From the replay camera angle it looked like a solid hockey hit and Johnson was just caught turning into the blindsiding behemoth, but it sure looked like Johnson's head was the initial point of contact. Johnson stayed on the ice, but at the whistle skated straight to the bench and started beating the crap out of inanimate objects on his way to the locker room. He did not return. The news only got worse when a little later Antoine Vermette plowed through the slot and collided hard with Matt Duchene. Dutchy went off, later returned, but was obviously stinging.
With 8:21 to go in the 3rd, Coyote defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson stick-handled his way into the Avalanche zone and fired a wrister from the far side of the left circle that seemed to deflect off Varly's stick and in behind to knot the game up at 2.
The Avalanche created a flurry in front of Smith with about 3 minutes left as the puck seemed to do everything but go in the back of the net. Yet another Avalanche player was hurt during the chaos as McLeod absorbed a gutless cross check in the side of his unprotected ribs. The Avs got a couple powerplays to end regulation that carried over to the Avs' first post-regulation game of the 2013 season. The overtime PP created a 4-on-3 advantage, but Mike Smith was able to fend off the onslaught, and then a stupid bounce off the refs skate turned what was a harmless puck over to Phoenix with numbers deep inside the Avs zone and Shane Doan netted the game winner. Unlucky bounce, but the Avs get a loser point. Unfortunate finish as the Avs outplayed Phoenix tonight. Hopefully the injuries sustained will turn out to be minor and we don't have to explore the organization's "depth" any more than we already are.
MHH Stick Taps
- Matt Duchene, Goal
- Mark Olver, Goal, uber-pest
- Milan Hejduk, assist, looked good
- McGinn - Duchene - Parenteau
- Palushaj - Stastny - Jones
- McLeod - Sgarbossa - Hejduk
- Bordeleau - Olver - Kobasew
- Johnson - Zanon
- Hejda - Barrie
- O`Byrne - O'Brien
- David Jones is SLOW. There's no way his knee is 100%. That being said Jones was more physical tonight and had a good net presence for the Avs.
- All game long McNab and Haynes talked about the Avs trying to get more offense out of there defensemen and they weren't just blowing sunshine. From the drop of the puck the Colorado blueliners were aggressively shooting and taking the puck deep, getting involved in the offensive, not just sitting back. It was refreshing. As if somebody was coaching them and implementing changes. Weird. I'm still trying to figure out what it all means....
- Did not notice Palushaj in his first game in Blue & Burgundy other than 2 quick hard shots.
- Why does Shane O'Brien insist on stick handling? What are you trying to prove dude?
Happy Valentine's Day all you lovers out there! The Avs take a couple days off before returning to Minnesota to take on their Wild division rival. For some, the sting of 2011's St Valentine's Day massacre is still too fresh - or ugly - and this day shall forever be marked as a dark day for all Avs fans. Unless of course the Avs do some massacring of their own.
6pm on Altitude.