Avalanche ride hot netminder to 2-1 win over Flyers

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Semyon Varlamov ruins Steve Downie's return. Sorry fella.

Max Talbot go the best of his old mates as the Colorado Avalanche defeated Steve Downie and the Philadelphia Flyers tonight on the strength of some other worldly goaltending.

Your Avalanche went up a man after Philadelphia youngster Sean Couturier tripped Talbot behind Varly's net after Talbot got the puck away from the Flyers. Bad penalty, but Talbot drew it by keeping those legs moving. On the power play, Stastny hit Landeskog from behind the net with an Olympian caliber no-look pass, but Mason stonewalled the Colorado captain and the Avs' Powerplay to keep it scoreless.

Then at 8:46 Dave Poile and USA hockey tinkled nervously into their Dockers when Erik Johnson masterfully took the puck from Couturier at center ice and rushed into Philly's zone creating an odd-man rush. EJ sent a pretty little aerial over to Duchene flying through the slot. Mason stopped Duchene, but McGinn trailed the play and pounded that juicy rebound into an open net. 1-0 Avs. Great play by three guys all wanting the puck.

Cody McLeod decided to adopt the Flyers early strategy of an idiotic offensive zone penalty and tripped Coburn in a totally unnecessary play. [SIDE BAR: We at MHH gave out mid-season grade for our Avs last week and I for one was hard on McLeod, but it was for plays like this. He seems to just go brain dead at times this season. He's been better lately, but too many blatant and avoidable penalties Red]. HUGE save on the ensuing Philly powerplay when none other than Steve Downie came in on the world's longest (time, not distance) breakaway, but Varly denied the former Av to keep the visiting squad down.

Andre Benoit left earlier in the first period after taking a Philadelphia clearing attempt off his kisser. When he showed up on the bench at the end of the period his lip was swollen like an LA newscaster's lips. Seriously you Botox-happy chuckleheads, you don't look younger, you look like the freakish offspring of an alien devil and Tupperware. What ever happened to aging gracefully, like Kurt Cobain or Crystal Pepsi??

The period ended with Matt Duchene taking a shot just after/as the horn sounded. Duchene immediately skated over to the Philly player he hit with the shot and seemingly apologized. That is class. Dustin Byfuglien jabbing at Varly after last Sunday's game is the exact punkassbitch opposite. And this is why it's easy to be an Avs fan - and Duchene fan in particular. Of course, the ever classy Flyers still took offense to Duchene's shot - which was really just follow-through, but hey, we can't all have integrity right? I mean, who wants to live in that icky do-goody world?

To kick off the second period, Couturier took another penalty (rough night so far kiddo), but the Avs couldn't get anything going.

Just after the PP Varlamov made a jaw-dropping lateral move to stop on a 3-on-1. The Avs turned that friggin' amazin' save into an almost breakaway, but MacKinnon was called offside on the play. So close….

Talbot threw a huge hit on Flyers defender Grossman as the man in orange and black shot the puck out of his zone. The crowd appreciated it with appropriate vigor.

McLeod took another head-scratching penalty when he -allegedly-  pushed the net off its moorings. Varly continued his head-standing by stopping Downie in the blue paint. The pass went through the crease to Downie on the opposite side of  #1. It look like a sure goal as the net was virtually uncovered, but super-human Semyon flashed his right pad out to stop the puck and somehow had enough strength in his outstretched sliding leg to stop Downie's second whack at it. Stunning.

That save would propel the Avalanche to their second goal of the game as the recently reunited tenacious tandem of O`Reilly and Landeskog would convert after Radar blocked a Philly shot and raced the puck up ice. A nice little give and go with Landy later and O`Reilly's shot hit Mason and climbed up and over the Philadelphia net minder and all the way onto the scoreboard putting the Avs up 2-0.

The Flyers got on the board off a deflection in front by Wayne Simmonds that Varly had no chance on. Well timed fly-by screen by Simmonds, his 13th tally of the season. 2-1 Avalanche.

Stastny clanked one off the post with 30 seconds left in the middle frame, but the period ends with the Avs taking their one-goal lead into the third. Fairly even game thru two: shots 21-20 Avs, chances 8-8, shots 19-20 Avs, Faceoffs 23-24 Avs, and powerplays both 0-2. Lots of chances. Lots of good goaltending.

The Avs came out determined in the third and carried the play. Hejda was staring at a vacated net after his initial shot deflected back out to him, but his second attempt caught O`Reilly's skate as Radar attempted to jump out of the way. Unlucky bounce that denied the Avs their 2nd 2-goal lead of the eve.

Momentum shifted a bit towards the visitors as the Avs found themselves down a man for the third time, with Talbot in the box for hooking. But Maxime's shame was killed off and the Avs took it to the Flyers again. McGinn even punched the puck into the net about midway through the period but just as the ref had blown the play dead - or more accurately, just before the the ref blew it dead, but it's about intent to blow, not just the deed - that sounds more disgusting (or sexy) than I intended. Either way, no goal. And for the second time in the period the Avs near goal was thwarted, keeping the Flyers in the game….

With just over two minuted to play, Stastny, from his knees, found Landeskog in front of Mason. The big Swede took a couple whacks at it but the Philly netminder turned him away. Philly rushed up the ice the other way and let loose a cannon of a slapper that Varly gloved like a God. Beauty.

Philly pulled Mason for the final ticks, but the Avs would hold on and thwart any last second goals (improvement!) to win the contest. Great game.

The 2-1 score is deceptive because both teams had numerous quality opportunities. The Avs barely missed a couple opportunities in this third to seal the deal, but the Flyers were simply denied again and again by some stellar play by Varlamov. No regulation losses in his last 9 games, 5-0-4. Maybe the Olympics could be held every year, and always in Russia… Varly's thanking of the crowd during the announcement of the three stars was adorable. I hope his English never improves.

MHH Stick Taps

  • Varlamov .967 save %, 30 saves
  • Jamie McGinn 1G, hunger
  • Matt Duchene, 1A, 4 shots, 786 spins

Lines

  • McGinn - Duchene - Talbot
  • Landeskog - Stastny - O`Reilly
  • McLeod - Mitchell - MacKinnon
  • Malone - Cliche - Bordeleau
  • Hejda - *Snubbed*
  • Benoit - Sarich
  • Holden - Guenin
  • Varlamov
Healthy Scratches: Tyson Barrie, Ryan Wilson
Injured: Tanguay, Parenteau

Quick Hits

  • Interesting change to the line-up tonight as the duo of Barrie and Wilson we're given the night off in exchange for journeymen Holden and Guenin as the 3rd pairing. I support this move. For now.
  • Hunger Games - McGinn looks reenergized, dare I say hungry, back up in the top six. Here's hoping he keeps that hunger burning and doesn't fade into the background again...
  • Question of the night. Better view: Pepsi vision or beer goggles?

Next Up

The teal San Jose Sharks swim into town for a Saturday matinee, 12:30 Mountain.

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