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Game 12: Avalanche 3, Penguins 2

photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP

Despite playing up to everyone's elevated expectations as always, Sidney Crosby couldn't keep his Penguins ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for very long.  The Kid scored two goals in the first period but it wasn't enough in the end.

The Avalanche won 3-2 on incredibly strong play by the team's grinders, specifically Ian Laperriere, Wyatt Smith and Ben Guite, who put on quite a show for his father who was in the stands.  Guite finished the game with an assist and a goal, the game-winner in the second period.  Lappy also had two points and Smith tallied a helper, not to mention some incredible play on the penalty kill.

Jose Theodore looked shaky early on but got his stuff together and finished with a very solid performance overall, including 26 saves on 28 shots, one of which was an unbelievable last-second save on Crosby, who thought he had an open net but was denied.

The other two goals also came in the second period, first on a power play when John-Michael Liles stuffed a loose puck through the Pittsburgh goaltender after it was freed by Ryan Smyth.  Wojtek Wolski scored just 40 seconds later to extend his points-scoring streak to eight games.

The Avalanche defense had some serious problems in the first period, but quickly closed down on the Penguins, who appeared to run out of steam as the game progressed.  The only player on the ice really hustling was Crosby, while the rest seemed content to watch.  Crosby couldn't get much done, though, since the Avs played him hard all night---including Marek Svatos, caught here playing good physical defense AGAIN.  When is he going to remember that he is a one-dimensional player?

The Colorado penalty kill, as briefly mentioned before, continued its overall dominance, stopping five of six Penguins power plays.  Wyatt Smith led that unit, diving across the ice and breaking up plays like his life depended on it.  Considering that Brad Richardson is almost ready to return to the lineup, Smith might really be fighting for his continued existence in the NHL---and doing well so far.

The Avalanche is now 6-0 at home, and extends its winning streak to four straight games.  Three other Northwest Division teams did Colorado a big favor by losing last night, and now the Avs are tied for first place with Minnesota at 16 points, with Calgary still behind by one.

One interesting note, the AP recap of the game misstates that the three Avalanche goals came in the third period instead of the second.  CBS Sportsline ran the story with a bad headline to match, but ESPN ran the story with a corrected headline.  The flub still persists in the article itself, though.

The Avalanche next play the struggling Vancouver Canucks at home in the Pepsi Center on Saturday.  With the way he's been alternating the two goalies, Coach Q will likely start Peter Budaj in net opposite Roberto Luongo.

Stars of the Game:

  1. Ben Guite (1g, 1a)
  1. Ian Laperriere (0g, 2a)
  1. Sidney Crosby (2g, 0a)