Whether it was the distraction of the looming Ryan O'Reilly offer sheet or just another slow start the Avalanche did not start the game on time. Just 4:28 into the game, the Flames top prospect Sven Baertschi sent a laser of a pass across the ice as Jay Bouwmeester came streaking into the high slot for a beautiful one-timer goal. Just 33 seconds later, Mike Cammalleri made it 2-0 when Greg Zanon and Shane O'Brien failed to follow a huge rebound to the high slot. Joe Sacco called his timeout early, just 5:01 into the game and probably had some not so nice words for his team. The Avs started to show some life after the timeout but would not escape the 1st period unscathed as they gave up a third goal to Jerome Iginla with just 54 seconds left in the period. Tyson Barrie attempted to cut off the pass in front of Semyon Varlamov, but a bad bounce gave Iginla an easy tap-in for a 3-0 lead.
Somewhere between the first and second goal Greg Sherman and CO decided that no, the Calgary Flames should NOT be allowed to add Ryan O'Reilly for a pair of draft picks, and they decided to match the Flames offer sheet for two years $10 million. Our story on O'Reilly can be found here.
Maybe it was the news about the imminent return of Ryan O'Reilly or maybe it was the ribbing that Joe Sacco gave his team in the locker room, but the Avalanche came out playing significantly better hockey in the second period. They got a power play opportunity early in the period and while they failed to convert, they did create several opportunities. Matt Duchene dinged a shot past Joey MacDonald and off the post and David Jones blocked a bomb from Gabriel Landeskog on the power play. Jones went down hard on the play and was helped to the locker room but returned to the ice for his next shift.
Not content to have his thunder stolen on the night, the OTHER Ryan O' scored the Avs first goal of the night at 14:49 in the second period. Aided by an excellent screen from Jamie McGinn and a very smart pass from Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Byrne absolutely ripped a shot off Mark Giordano's stick and into the top corner. O'Byrne didn't stop there however, as he decided the best way to follow-up his first of the season was by taking a penalty just a few seconds later. The Avs killed the penalty easily and actually created a number of shorthanded chances. First David Jones and Gabriel Landeskog failed to connect on a 2 on 1 rush, then Cody McLeod made an excellent move in the offensive zone to get a low, hard shot on net for a dangerous rebound.
At 12:07 in the second period the Avalanche almost executed on a play I've been looking for all year as Tyson Barrie lined up a hard slap pass to Jamie McGinn who was streaking through the high slot. McGinn redirected the puck on net for a dangerous Avalanche scoring opportunity.
At 10:06 in the second period David Jones cut the lead to one after a hard working shift from his line. Jones and Landeskog won a puck battle along the boards, and cycled the puck to Paul Stastny behind the Flames net. It seems that if Paul Stastny could just get the puck behind the net more often his offensive numbers would skyrocket, he has always been an excellent passer form that part of the ice. Stastny quickly centered the puck to Gabriel Landeskog who despite being covered by a number of Calgary defensemen, muscled his way into the crease for a shot on net. David Jones capitalized on the rebound, batting the bouncing puck into the back of the net.
Feeling the momentum shift, Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley called a timeout to ask his players whether Ryan O'Reilly would be available to slow the game down for the Flames in the third period. When he learned that they would not he asked Jerome Iginla to please continue being good at hockey.
Things started to even up again after the Calgary timeout and with roughly 7:00 to go in the 2nd period Patrick Bordeleau took an undisciplined charging penalty. Matt Duchene won the faceoff in his own zone and cleared the puck but on the next shift of the penalty kill David Jones failed to make an easy clear and handed the Flames an odd man rush the other way. A very pretty give and go play between Jiri Hudler and Jerome Iginla led to the Flames fourth goal of the night and Iginla's second of the game. Ryan O'Byrne managed to block the first shot from Iginla, but he quickly the gathered the puck and put it past Semyon Varlamov to extend the lead to two.
The Avalanche responded well to the goal and pushed the pace hard against the Calgary Flames. Despite a number of good breakouts, they could not seem to enter the Calgary zone onsides. If anyone was doubting Landeskog's grit after the concussion they can probably put those worries to bed as he absolutely plastered a Calgary player against the boards on the forecheck.
In the last 5 minutes of the period both teams loosened up significantly, trying for long stretch passes and rush plays. The Flames had the best chance as Jerome Iginla fired a bomb of a one timer from the left faceoff dot, but Varlamov was quick to slide across his crease and deflect the shot.
With just under two minutes left in the period, Landeskog had another meat and potatoes shift, and drew a penalty as he collected the puck in the corner and skated up ice with the Calgary Flames' Derek Smith hanging on his back. Despite keeping the puck in the Clagary zone for a good portion of the power play, the Avalanche once again failed to capitalize.
It just seems as though the Avalanche power play is too predictable, a combination of three or four set plays that all involve shots from outside the high slot. The two best chances on the power play came on the rush, when Avalanche forwards broke out of this system and tried to make a play on thier own. Paul Stastny had the best chance on the power play, deking two defenseman for a good backhand shot at MacDonald's five-hole. At the end of the period Matt Duchene used his speed to drive the outside of the net and almost managed to slip the puck past MacDonald and the defense to a number of wide open Avalanche players in the Flames crease.
Landeskog continued his strong play in the third period and brought the Avs within one with a one-handed goal just 23 seconds into the second period. Landeskog drove the net hard shielding the puck with his body and holding the stick with one hand, as he approached the crease he poked his stick at the bouncing puck to send the puck past MacDonald. The Avalanche really seemed to catch their legs after the Landeskog goal and got another opportunity on the power play when Jay Bouwemeester high sticked Jamie McGinn. Unfortunately, they spent approximately 1:45 seconds of the powerplay practicing drop passes at the blueline.
MacDonald, who gave up big rebounds handed a wide open net to Paul Stastny at 13:23 in the third period. Stastny, knowing he's had bad luck shooting the puck with his stick, astutely decided to direct the puck into the net with his skates. After a somewhat lengthy review, the Toronto warroom confirmed the goal, tying the game at 4.
With 9:08 left in the third period the Avs grabbed their first lead of the game off an absolutely beautiful play from the Matt Duchene line. PA Parenteau knocked the puck out of midair at the blueline to start the rush for Jamie McGinn who put a hard shot on net that bounced off of MacDonald giving Matt Duchene an easy tap in off the rebound for his 7th goal of the season.
Shane O'Brien took a very, very light rought penalty in front of the Avs net when the refs thought he took a few too many liberties with Calgary's Matt Stajan (including slapping his helmet away when he reached to pick it up). Matt Duchene, Jan Hejda, Jamie McGinn and Gabriel Landeskog did such an excellent job killing the penalty that O'Brien decided they should have another go at it. He committed a holding the stick penalty just a few moments after returning to even strength. After another strong penalty kill with an excellent shift from Cody McLeod, the Avs tightened up defensively and tried to kill of the remaining 5 minutes of the game. With just under 2:00 remaining in the third period, Semyon Varlamov made perhaps his best save of the night to protect the lead on an Alex Tanguay slapshot.
In case you missed it:
- Shane O'Brien gave an interview between the benches in the second period, complete with pushing a linesman out of the camera shot and winking. #fortheladies
- Jay Bouwmeester added to his league record games played without a playoff appearance.
- Congratulations to Matt Hunwick who will be a father by the time this article is published.
Cole's Three Stars of the Game:
1st Star: Gabriel Landeskog (1st career 3-point night. (Wait really? How?)) Anyway, it was a statement game for the young captain, led by example and gave the Avs a huge goal when they needed it.
2nd Star: Paul Stastny had, by far his best game of the season. He was dangerous all night.
3rd Star: Joe Sacco: Landeskog and O'Brien both gave huge props to the coach for the way he managed the team after a bad first period. Sacco rolled the hot lines well all night and gave the best players a chance for success (I still don't like Duchene on the point though and neither should you.)