Well, that was an up-and-down game. It was a very odd feeling match, but the Avs managed to pull out the 3-2 OT win. The Canucks came into tonight on the second half of a back-to-back, so I was expecting to see a tired team, but they had a lot of jump for their style of play. We also had to keep an eye on the Boston - Chicago game (which, incidentally, the Bruins won handily shutting out the Blackhawks), and the New Jersey - Phoenix game. A loss by the Coyotes and an Avs win would have resulted in us officially clinching a playoff berth, but Phoenix won in the shootout, so we have a bit longer before its mathematically inevitable. With the Blackhawks defeat, the Avs were able to pull within one point in the standings, and we still have a game in hand.
The Avs played with 7 D and 11 forwards because Erik Johnson had the flu, but still suited up, and Paul Carey rode the pine. Instead of using one of those defensemen at a forward position, Roy opted to use mostly three lines, with Brad Malone and Patrick Bordeleau with very limited ice time. This might have been a good game to have rolled 4 lines (well, if we had Mitchell, it might have been), because of the number of PK's we had to deal with, so the top lines had to step up and help kill off penalties, but more about that in a minute.
Period the First!
Malone took a penalty very early in the game with a leg-to-leg trip. Luckily the Avs were able to kill it off with only one SOG; they had very strong play along the boards, and kept the puck outside of the danger zone. That momentum carried over after the kill, and we began to put pressure onto the Canucks. It didn't result in anything, but it started to run into a back-and-forth play.
The play suddenly shifted, and the Avs found themselves defending. It culminated in a boarding call called on Gabriel Landeskog after he finished a check driving Jordan Schroeder into the boards. It was a little unlucky, but it was definitely a penalty. The PK started off nicely, but it broke down when the Canucks put the speed on, and a crashing Yannick Weber got a great pass from Nicklas Jensen, and he buried it behind a sliding Semyon Varlamov.
Matt Duchene scored a few minutes after that. He was an absolute beast that shift, spending 1:32 on the ice. His linemates managed to seemlessly trade out, but Duchene stayed on, and after good, hard work by Andre Benoit and Cody McLeod, Duchene picked up a bouncing rebound and threw it home. Excellent play.
Right after that, Tyson Barrie picked up an interference penalty, and felt shame. I was a little worried, because Vancouver had 5 SOGs during the first two PP, but the Avs were up to the task, and killed off the penalty quite well.
I wouldn't call that a great period by the Avs; it was a hard working, grinding period, not the fast, fluid games we are used to seeing from our team. Vancouver did a very good job of forcing us to slow down, and play to their level, rather than letting us play the way we want. Even so, we played well, and didn't let it limit us.
The second started out well, with both teams looking focused. They sparred back and forth on the ice for a bit until a couple guys sparred literally. Patrick Bordeleau fought Tom Sestito, and fought well. That was a real strong fight, with Bordy taking the win. The Can cheered for the fight, and for Patrick, and the team, and the emotional charge energized everything. That sparked us, and just after that, with Landy and Stastny almost connecting for a wide-open net.
The game really began to open up, with both teams letting the other skate. A mistake, I think, since we started to take the upper hand. We began to skate around Vancouver, and putting more and more pressure on, as evidenced by Nathan MacKinnon drawing an interference penalty as he chased the puck through the neutral zone.
Not like it mattered much, because Andre Benoit tried to get away with a little surreptitious stick-holding, but was called for it, negating the PP. The teams played 4-on-4 for 1:44, and despite some up and down play, nothing really amounted to much. The 16 second power play for the Canucks was much more interesting, mostly because the Avs had two shorthanded shots, which made me smile.
Moments later, the Paul Stastny - Gabe Landeskog connection resulted in a sweet goal! A fast-moving Cory Sarich rolled up along the boards and passed to Pauly Walnuts behind the net, who fakes out the entire Canucks team into thinking he was skating around the corner; instead, he passed to a driving Landy, who potted a pretty easy goal. Very good work all around.
Right after that, Benoit got called for hooking. That happened just a few seconds short of the 10:00 mark. The Avs had five penalties in the first half of the game. Five. Its hard to be good when you spend that much time a man short. The first part of the PK was slow, with the Avs letting the Canucks spend too much time in our zone, but after a good clear, we were able to keep them our for the second half of the PK, and killed it off.
With four (I think) minutes remaining in the second, Landy checked Kevin Bieksa into the boards, and Bieksa left the ice in a great deal of pain. He did not return to play until the 3rd period. It looked like he got hung up on the shelf. Luckily, it looks like he'll be ok.
Ug, Zack Kassian scored to tie everything up. The goal went in with 1:22 left in the period. Dan Hamhuis passed the puck across to Kassian just to the far side of the net. Kassian, anticipating the pass, cross-checked Cory Sarich and knocked him off balance, allowing himself to be uncovered to tap the goal in. Nice, smart little play, but Sarich should have been anticipating that, and been a little strong right in front of the net.
At the end of the period, tempers flare, with Jamie McGinn and Landy stepping to Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kessler. No one throws down, but the teams were starting to feel feisty. Duchene and Kessler were jawing at one point too, but I honestly can't remember if it was before or after this.
The second period was much faster than the first. Even tho the shots on goal and score were even, and the two teams played comparable games, the Avs had several excellent chances at open nets that often didnt even result in a shot. There must have been four of those in the second period alone, where one little bounce sends things the wrong way, and nothing happens. But, overall, good, even match.
3rd Period of DOOOOOM!
The third frame started fast as Nathan MacKinnon drew a penalty after a good cross-ice pass from Barrie, and the Avs head to the PP. It wasn't overly good, tho, and a slow start getting into the Canucks' zone and a lot of passing didn't result in much, including no shots. However, the Avs momentum continued, and they were able to plant themselves in the Vancouver zone. After a bunch of movement and a few shots, Jannik Hansen knocked Duchene over in front of the net, and the Avs got another PP.
This one was much better than the first man advantage, and had Vancouver scrambling, but the Av's couldn't score. There was only one SOG, but at least this one looked threatening. With that, the Avs started to lose control of the game a bit. The Canucks started to press the play a bit, and spent a lot of time at the wrong end of the ice. With Vancouver dictating the pace, it started to slow, with a more defensive mindset. It began to be about the forecheck, and clogging the neutral zone, and focusing on getting at least a point.
Until, that is, the final minute or two, when things started to get sloppy. Both teams began to scramble, and the tone changed again, to something very different than the calculating defense. A couple late minute chances raised the hair on my neck, but we made it to OT, and got at least a point.
The third was an entirely different pace than either of the other two periods. The first was rough and grinding, the second was flowing and hard-hitting. The third had some speed, but it was mostly clogging, and calculated.
I didn't get many impressions from this, because the teams had barely felt each other out before Matt Duchene drew the entire Canucks defense to his dazzling skating and passed the puck to a pinching Tyson Barrie, who tipped it in behind Eddie Lack for the game winning goal!
- Crazy up-and-down game. All three periods were played in different styles, with different tempos, and with different feels. The Avs were able to play in all three styles, and keep up with them all, against a very hungry team that still have good weapons. Yeah, I know Brian Engblom said that in the post-game, but he's right. He's exactly right.
- The Avalanche continue to be a hard-hitting club. Tonight we out-hit the Canucks 32-21. Cody McLeod had 6 hits, but Landeskog and Hejda both tied with 5 each.
- Five penalties. In 30 minutes. But, on the other hand, there weren't any more Avs penalties after that. Think maybe someone said something? Also of note, I didn't really notice Nate Guenin on the ice tonight, but that's because he spent 4:38 of his 12 minutes on the PK, and I wasn't paying as much attention to the numbers at that point.
- I really can't believe how many "almosts" we had tonight. There must have been six or seven drives that I thought we were going to score on for sure, only to have an errant skate mess things up. Sure, Vancouver had a couple too, but I felt like we were the more dangerous club all evening.
Matt 3 Stars of Awesomeness:
1) Matt Duchene. With a goal and an assist, he was a beast on the ice tonight. Domination. I loved seeing it. He has gotten much better defensively, too, which impresses me.
2) Tyson Barrie. Game winning goal. Record setting number of OT wins by a defenseman. Great play tonight, altho if I had to pick on something, his interference penalty was a unnecessary.
3) Gabe Landeskog. Our captain is really coming into his own. He hit everyone, shot all the pucks, and scored. And he looked so calm during it all. Just another day of doing what needs to be done. Excellent.
The Avs face the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center for a Saturday Matinee. The Sharks lost tonight to the Jets, but they still have 103 points. Fun. This is going to be a good test. I hope that John Mitchel will be well enough to play!