The A-Train just keeps on rollin'. Colorado continued their strong play last night, dropping the Oilers 4-1 for their first 3-game winning streak of the season. Colorado has netted 4 goals or more in their last 5 games, and seem to be clicking on all cylinders. On the scoresheet, the Avs only took 17 shots...but the offense was strong, forcing the Edmonton defense to make numerous turnovers in their own end (last count I saw was 11). In their own end, the Avs defense held the Oilers to just 19 shots, with very few second chances. The powerplay couldn't muster anything against the league's best penalty-killing team, but our own unit was strong as well - there was something like 3 total shots on the 9 powerplays in the game.
Peter Budaj has been looking great between the pipes; late in the first period he let an ugly goal - Marc-Antoine Pouliot's first in the NHL - but he immediately pulled it together and stopped several fine shots on the next shift. Two minutes later Milan Hejduk deposited a beautiful pass from Brett Clark into a wide open net (Dwayne Roloson is still looking for that one). Instead of 2-0, the game was tied at the end of 1, and Budaj was in control the rest of the way.
So was the Colorado offense. Less than 3 minutes into the 2nd period, John-Michael Liles looked like a certain other #4, with an amazing end-to-end rush to score what would turn out to be the winning goal. 7 minutes later, Wolski and Brunette got together on a nice give-and-go, with Wolski driving it home. Finally, Tyler Arnason fired a rocket from just inside the blueline that ended Roloson's night and essentially took away any thought of an Edmonton comeback.
With the win, Colorado moves from last into a tie for second in the sphincter-tight Northwest division. If Calgary and Vancouver both win tonight, Colorado is back in last, but the standings are not as important as the way the team is playing, and that is solid. Next up is the Blackhawks on Sunday in Chicago, a winable game if they keep this effort up. This is the best the Avs have been playing all season.
Svatos was a late scratch, so Rycroft moved to his semi-regular spot on the Stastny line. Brad Richardson returned (scratched last game) to the checking line.
- Sakic, Wolski, Brunette. 6 shots, 13:08, +4
- Arnason, McLean, Hejduk. 5 shots, 12:52, +4
- Stastny, Turgeon, Rycroft. 2 shots, 9:10, -1
- Richardson, Laaksonen, Laperriere. 0 shots, 8:27, +1
Leopold is still injured (groin), and Brisebois was a last-minute scratch due to flu, which meant that under-appreciated Kurt Sauer got to play in his 2nd game of the season (against 30 healthy scratches)
- Clark & Skrastins, 0 shots, 14:14, +6
- Liles & Sauer, 2 shots, 12:53, +1
- Klee & Vaananen, 2 shots, 17:11, -1
- Did anyone think before the season that Ken Klee would be a +15 32 games into the season? Klee might be on his way to a career high in +/-, with +22 being his career best to date.
- Ditto for Brett McLean and Tyler Arnason. McLean has never been a + player in the NHL, but is currently sitting at +8. Arnason's career best is +7, and he currently sits at +6. Arnason is on pace for a career-best 61 points. Nice timing; he's an unrestricted free agent next summer.
- Kurt Sauer played a solid game for Colorado. I don't imagine the two penalties will help his cause any more than his big turnover in the Toronto game, but I'm very comfortable with him when he's on the ice. It's unfortunate that he hasn't had more opportunity to show what he's capable of.
Stats are updated, as usual. Thanks for reading!