This article was supposed to be about Antti Laaksonen. The struggling forward was the star of the first 25 minutes of the game as the Avs built a 3-1 lead and seemed on the way to another easy victory against the Coyotes. But the Avs took their foot off the gas in the 3rd period, mustering just 6 shots in the last 25 minutes (regulation and OT) and ended up with one point instead of two.
Laaksonen set the tone for the game early on with a big hit on LW Josh Gratton that sent the Coyote hard into the boards in front of the Phoenix bench. There was no penalty on the play, but that didn't stop D Nick Boynton from chasing after Laaksonen and literally pulling him back onto the ice as he went off for the change. Boynton was given a roughing penalty...but this would be the only time a Coyote would be penalized for taking a potshot at a Colorado player. Later in the period, Derek Morris spent some time molesting Laaksonen in front of the net, and then superego Jeremy Roenick elbowed Laaksonen after a whistle right in front of a ref. No call. The crap continued in the second, when D Zbynek Michalek kicked Ian Laperriere when they went hard into the boards together. I can understand this not getting called (you couldn't really see the kick without the replay), but I don't get how, with Laperriere and Michalek "working things out" after the kick, Owen Nolan was allowed to skate over and shove Laperriere hard into the boards without getting sent off. Boynton also went after Laperriere after the play, and later ran over Karlis Skrastins after the period had ended, but none of these cowardly plays earned a penalty. The refs didn't just swallow whistles on the physical stuff - Joe Sakic was tripped in the 3rd and again in OT without so much as a flinch from referees Dave Jackson and Stephane Auger.
Jordan Leopold made his return from a groin injury in fine fashion, scoring a goal (his first point as an Avalanche) at the 5:20 mark of the 1st. Technically, it was a shorthanded goal, as Boynton had come out of the box just 5 seconds before (Paul Stastny was in the box for the Avs). Steve Reinprecht scored late in the first when Budaj couldn't control the puck in the crease, allowing the Coyotes to be tied at the first intermission despite being outplayed pretty badly to that point.
Laaksonen made it 2-1 early in the 2nd with Colorado's 2nd shorthanded goal of the night (and 5th of the season). Ian Laperriere won a battle for the puck at center ice, and passed to Laaksonen who skated in hard against 4 disinterested Coyotoes. When no one moved to put pressure on Laaksonen, he fired it on net, beating Curtis Joseph for just his 3rd goal of the year. Brett McLean scored 75 seconds later on another fine play from Laaksonen. Roenick had possession of the puck against the boards and was attempting to clear, but Laaksonen stole the puck to keep the play alive. McLean ended up with the puck behind the net, and his centering pass to Laperriere ended up ricocheting off Ed Jovanovski's skate and into the net. 65-year-old Owen Nolan scored later to make it 3-2, but Joe Sakic, quiet in the early going, slammed home the rebound from Andrew Brunette's shot late in the 2nd period to give the Avs a commanding 4-2 lead.
Ok, maybe not so commanding. Not unexpectedly, Colorado came out rather flat in the 3rd period. Wojtek Wolski's lazy clearing attempt went over the glass to give the Coyote's a powerplay midway through the third. Yanic Perrault converted when the Avs defenders botched a play coming into their zone. It was the only mistake the penalty kill unit made all night (really, over the last 3 games), but it cost Colorado dearly. Just 62 seconds later Perrault deflected a Michalek shot from the blueline to tie the game. There was no scoring in OT - Phoenix outshot Colorado 5-0 in the extended frame as the Avs had to kill off a 2-minute penalty to Ken Klee. Budaj was so-so in the game, but made some great saves late in the 3rd and throughout OT to get Colorado to the shootout. Unfortunately, Wolski, Milan Hejduk and Sakic all came up empty in the shootout, with all 3 going to some oft-used moves. Budaj stopped Shane Doan, but couldn't stop the blast from Ladislav Nagy. He did, however, take a nice swipe at the skate of Nagy after he scored. I imagine Boynton slashed Budaj's tires after the game, or some other similar juvenile retaliation.
For the forwards, nothing changed - Pierre Turgeon and Mark Rycroft both sat out their 3rd straight game. Ben Guite was recalled from Albany for the 3rd time this year, and played probably his best game as a pro - his work on the PK is fantastic, and he came really close to getting the Avs 3rd SH goal in the game. Wolski played most of the game on the Sakic line, but played just 1 5-on-5 shift after his delay of game penalty at 6:55 of the 3rd. Brett McLean replaced him on the top line.
On defense, Jordan Leopold made his return, and partnered with Kurt Sauer, the spot recently filled by Kyle Cumiskey (sent to Albany). It was the first change in defensive pairings in the last 7 games.
(reminder that I lump SH points as EV points - so the Leopold and Laaksonen goals count as EV points in the totals below)
- C Sakic, LW Wolski, RW Brunette: 15:10 ATOI (EV), 3 pts (EV), 8 shots, +2
- C Stastny, LW Arnason, RW Hejduk: 13:00 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 6 shots, -3
- C Guite, LW Richardson, RW Svatos: 10:03 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 7 shots, -2
- C McLean, LW Laaksonen, RW Laperriere: 8:24 ATOI (EV), 5 pts (EV), 3 shots, +5
- D Clark & D Skrastins: 16:38 ATOI (EV), 1 pt (EV), 1 shot, -1
- D Klee & D Vaananen: 15:57 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 0 shots, +1
- D Leopold & D Sauer: 17:00 ATOI (EV), 2 pts (EV), 2 shots, +1
- Colorado has played 10 games in January and have points in 8 of them (14 total). Unfortunately, the rest of the NW is hot as well - 4 of the 5 NW teams got a point last night, even though just one team (Minnesota) had a win.
- Colorado's PK has given up just 9 goals in January, and has scored 3 shorthanded goals. The Avs' PK for January has given up 6.90 goals per 60 minutes - the 2nd best month (October was 6.85) and below the season average of 7.29.
- Ben Guite is averaging 3:23 on the PK a game, 2nd among Avs to Brad Richardson's 3:27. In his 20 total minutes of PK ice time, Guite has been on the ice for just 1 goal scored, an average of just 2.95 goals per 60 minutes - tops on the team by a wide margin (minimum 20 minutes).
Stats are updated and are in the process of being posted