The big question this afternoon, as it has been for some time now, was whether or not the Avalanche could have a strong first period showing and score the first goal of the game. That effort showed, as the Avalanche played a strong, fast paced and very physical first period, and although the Avalanche didn't allow a goal in the first period, they weren't able to score one either. This was a goaltending duel through and through, so the quest for an early Avalanche goal continues!
Scoring opportunities were hard to find early on, but both teams came out with a good physical edge. Just over a minute into the contest, Cody McLeod and Rich Clune dropped the gloves and engaged in some fisticuffs. McLeod lost the fight early on, but got a few good punches in after Rich Clune lifted him back onto his feet to continue fighting.
Slowly but surely the period opened up with more scoring chances for each side. Pekka Rinne stopped Gabriel Landeskog and Erik Johnson on back-to-back scoring opportunities in close before Nashville started to take over the game a bit. Halfway through the period the Avalanche's Milan Hejduk fell awkwardly near the bench injuring his shoulder, he would not return to the game. The Predators got their first great opportunity with just over 8 minutes left in the period, as Chris Klein pinched down from the point and fired a one-timer high on Semyon Varlamov, but the Avs goalie flashed leather, denying Predators.
Shortly after, the Avalanche took their first penalty since the Calgary game on Wednesday night. At 7:33 Matt Hunwick went to the penalty box on a questionable interference call, giving Nashville the first power play of the night. Not long after, Erik Johnson took a slashing penalty to send the Predators on a 5-on-3 opportunity. The Avalanche did an excellent job killing the penalties, but got some help from Semyon Varlamov, who made an amazing sliding pad save on the Predators most dangerous opportunity to help the Avalanche kill both penalties. Varlamov's excellent goaltending continued later in the period as he stepped well above the crease with a right leg kick save that stonewalled a wide open Paul Gaustad.
Erik Johnson would head back to the penalty box for hooking with just over a minute left in the period. After the first Nashville scoring chance, Ryan O'Byrne got involved with the Predators Patric Hornqvist, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when Hornqvist tried to pull O'Byrne's visor off. The Avalanche really started to shine in four on four hockey, using their speed to take advantage of the wide open ice. Matt Duchene and P.A. Parenteau had the period's best scoring chance as time expired. On a 2 on 1 break Parenteau was tripped as he entered the zone, but fought off the Nashville backchecker to send a saucer pass across the ice for Matt Duchene. Pekka Rinne made a huge stick save, sliding side to side and knocking the puck out of the air with his paddle with just 7 seconds left in the period.
The 2nd period tightened up defensively again, and neither team created dangerous scoring opportunities early in the period. Matt Duchene was called for a delay of game penalty roughly four minutes into the period. The Avalanche's outstanding penalty killing work continued, as they killed off yet another Predators power play.
There isn't much to say about the middle section of this period. The Avalanche played well, stayed physical, and kept up their energy up, they did however start to fade offensively. Halway through the period SOG were 19-9 in favor of Nashville.
The Avs had a few scary moments at the period's halfway mark. First, Jamie McGinn looked for a big hit in the offensive zone. The near miss resulted in a near knee-to-knee collision. Neither player was hurt and no penalty was called. Moments later Tyson Barrie and Chris Bourque Gabriel Bourque had a huge collision near the point. Neither player seemed to see eachother and Barrie appeared to hit his head on the ice. The young Avs defenseman skated straight to the bench, but returned to the ice on his next shift.
Nashville's offensive dominance wouldn't last. however, as the Avalanche took over in the offensive zone with just 6 minute sl The Avs possessed the puck for almost 2 full minutes and created a number of dangerous scoring opportunities, including a beautiful doorstep opportunity from Aaron Palushaj. Despite the Avs best efforts, Pekka Rinne stood tall.
With 2 minutes left in the period, Ryan O'Byrne clipped Brandon Yip up high with the stick and cut him across the bridge of the nose. Yip went straight to the locker room and sent the Predators back on the power play, with a 4-minute double minor. Varlamov made perhaps his best save of the night in the closing minutes of the 2nd period. The Avalanche goaltender fought off a screen to make a left pad save in the right half of his net, then stretched his left pad across the net to deny a quick rebound from the Predators forward.
At the end of the second period Nashville had outshot the Avalanche 27-12. On a completely, 100%, honestly unrelated note, the Predators enjoyed over 8 minutes of power play time, to the Avalanche's 14 seconds.
The Avalanche started the third period with 1:37 left on the penalty kill. 1 minute into the period Chuck Kobasew drove the Nashville net shorthanded. Despite being grabbed by Roman Josi and then pulled down to the ice where he slid into the Nashville net, the Avalanche still did not get power play. Considering Matt Hunwick's "offsides" in the first period, it was a laughable non-call. The next several faceoffs occurred in the Avalanche zone, as the Avalanche did a better job possessing the puck in the Nashville zone. Despite a number of good opportunities, the Avalanche could not register a shot on goal until 5:37 seconds into the third period. For the first ten minutes of the third period, you could barely hear the Avalanche broadcast over the sound of collisions with the boards. Both teams clearly decided that if no one could score, then they would at least grind eachother into dust along the boards. I don't know how many actual hits will be registered tonight, but I think this was one of the Avalanche's most physical games of the season.
The Avalanche started to fade a bit after the first 5 minutes, but 8 minutes into the period Tyson Barrie jumpstarted the team with a great offensive opportunity. The Avs d-man made a one-handed deke past two Nashville players before driving the left side of the ice and using the defenseman as a screen to fire a hard wrist shot which handcuffed Pekka Rinne. Barrie's individual effort clearly got the Avs going, as the fourth line created three strong opportunities on their next shift, including a wrap around from Cody McLeod. Mark Olver threw a hard check on Shea Weber and got under the defenseman's skin enough that he chased him all the way across the ice to deliver a check of his own. On Tyson Barrie's next shift, he fired two absolute cannons from the point, both were blocked on their way to the net. The Avalanche continued to feed off of their momentum as Aaron Palushaj, Cody McLeod and Matt Hunwick had an excellent possession shift in the Nashville zone. Though they didn't get a good scoring opportunity out of it, they cycled the puck well and should have drawn a penalty when Matt Hunwick was elbowed along the boards.
The 14th minute was not kind to the Avs, as Nashville committed 2 penalties in under a minute and neither was called (are you sensing a theme yet?). First, Ryan O'Reilly was clearly high-sticked away from the puck. On the ensuing line change, the Avs fired the puck near the Nashville bench where it bounced off a players skate who was getting onto the bench. By my count he was the 7th Nashville player on the ice, the officials, apparently, could not count that high.
With a few minutes left in the period Aaron Palushaj was taken down in the corner by David Legwand. With the puck under Palushaj, Legwand straddled the Avalanche forward, held him down, and while he was defensless and started hitting him with his stick and hands in an attempt to dislodge the puck. This somehow, was also not a penalty.
With 30 seconds left in the game, Nashville had a number of dangerous offensive chances. The first when Nashville shot the puck for an easy rebound in the crease. A Nashville player drove the crease for the puck but was held up by a strong physical play from... wait for it.... Greg Zanon. On the ensuing play Matt Duchene had his stick slashed out of his hands (this is also not a penalty) allowing Nashville the space to take a very dangerous shot on Semyon Varlamov, who stood tall, knocking the puck out of the air with his glove/arm before diving to cover the rebound. Gabriel Landeskog had the last good chance in regulation as he drove the net past 3 Nashville defenders towards Pekka Rinne. He was hooked, slashed, and poked on his way in and had the puck knocked away just before taking a shot.
It took just 50 seconds for the Avalanche to finish this one off. The Avs took possession in the offensive zone when PA Parenteau passed the puck to Greg Zanon at the point. The beard wound up a slapshot which made it all the way to Pekka Rinne's left pad and created a juicy rebound below the faceoff circle. Before the Nashville defenseman could get to the puck, Tyson Barrie fired the rebound past a sliding Rinne for the game-winning goal. I guess one way to score the first goal is to score the only goal
Avs 3 Stars
1. Semyon Varlamov
2. Tyson Barrie
3. Jan Hejda
Cole's 3 Stars
1. Tyson Barrie
2. Semyon Varlamov
3. Pekka Rinne
A few other Avalanche stick taps:
- Tyson Barrie may have been the dazzle, but Greg Zanon was certainly the razzle tonight? I can't believe I'm saying this, but Zanon actually had a very good game which made space for Tyson Barrie to join the rush.
- Involved in the rush more than any other Avalanche defenseman as well as a number of Avalanche forwards.
- A total warrior tonight. He answered the call well when he was promoted in Milan Hejduk's place. Palushaj did everything but score and played with a good physical edge.