It was their best road game of the season, but the outcome was still the same. The Avalanche played well against the 1st-place Wild, but allowed a late goal for the 2nd straight game to lose 3-2. While the outcome isn't terrific, I felt the team played much better as a whole than they did against Chicago. The Wild have allowed just 11 goals in 8 games - tops in the league - but the Avalanche hung in tough until the end.
Defensively, the Avs were much better last night. Apparently spurred by my suggestions in the Chicago recap, Joel Quenneville broke up the pairing of Scott Hannan and Brett Clark and returned Jeff Finger to the lineup. While there were still some miscues, the D played much better as a unit. One glaring exception: Jordan Leopold. Leopold was shaky in the Chicago game, and wasn't any better against the Wild. Every touch of the puck in his own zone was an adventure. His last two games have been frightening - even more so because he's supposed to be a guy who's comfortable with the puck. Lately, he's reacting like the puck is something new and foreign to him - he doesn't seem to have a clue what to do with it. It's quite bizarre, really.
Peter Budaj was generally strong in net, and got better as the night went on. He made two game-saving stops late in the 3rd, preserving the 2-2 tie. Unfortunately, Mikku Koivu would fool everyone - Budaj included - to sneak in front of the net and break the deadlock with just over 3 minutes to go. It was a tough way for the Avs to lose. But, other than Leopold, there was really no one player or strategy one could single out as being the cause for the loss; they played hard against an excellent team and just came up a little short. I'll take that to giving up 2 on 1s to a bunch of Chicago teenagers any day.
Line report - now with goalies - is up.
Milan Hejduk missed his 2nd game of the year, presumably because of his bad back. Marek Svatos took Hejduk's spot on the 2nd line. Ian Laperriere moved up to Svatos' former spot on the 3rd line, and Scott Parker dressed an played on the 4th line...for all of 3 shifts.
On defense, Jeff Finger played and Karlis Skrastins was a scratch.
- Tyler Arnason scored his first PP goal of the season (and first goal overall). It matches his PP goal output from all of last season. He scored that PP in Game 72.
- Avalanche defensemen had 14 blocks on the night. The Wild as a team had just 8.
- The Avs PK allowed their first PP goal in 5 games. In general, they looked rather flat tonight, and seemed generally content to stand and watch the play unfold around them.
The Avalanche continue their 4-game road trip with a stop in Edmonton on Tuesday. Obviously, that will be an emotional homecoming for Ryan Smyth.