What an amazing day yesterday! Colorado wins. Sakic scores his 600th. Forsberg is coming back to Colorado (albeit in a Nasvhille uniform). Eklund's secret identity has been revealed. And Audioslave has broken up (hopefully paving the way for a Rage Against the Machine reunion). I will be sporting this perma grin all day long...
And heck, since it's such a special day, I'm going to try a slightly different approach to the recap:
- 7:05 Both teams came out playing well in the early going. Calgary had some early shots, but then the Avs cycle game started to take place. The Arnason line managed some amazing sustained pressure deep in the Calgary zone. The Flames couldn't get off the ice, and the best they could do was to ice the puck for a quick breather. The Avs put the Sakic line on, and they continued to pin the Flames in deep. When all was said and done, they held the same Calgary line on the ice for about 2 minutes.
- 9:48 Unfortunately, the Avs couldn't score, and when the Flames finally got possession they got a breakout with old friend Alex Tanguay making a nice cross-ice pass to Jarome Iginla. G Peter Budaj reacted (or didn't react as it were) like he didn't see the pass at all, and Iginla had a wide open net to score on. Flames take the lead, 1-0.
- 11:57 It didn't take long to increase the lead. Craig Conroy's first shot on Budaj was blocked by a defender, but he got the puck back quickly and beat Budaj. Both goals are the infamous "would like to have them back" type. Avs are playing well, but now are in a 2-0 hole.
- 19:16 Robin Regher comes out of the box after serving a penalty for holding. To celebrate, he almost immediately gets called for hooking.
- 19:39 This time, he doesn't have to sit for long. Brunette held possession of the puck - where? (Everybody now: "behind the net"). Joe Sakic sees this, and skates in from the point to the front of the net. Brunette feeds him, and Sakic puts his 599th career goal past Miika Kiprusoff. Flames still lead, but now it's just a 2-1 margin.
- 19:50 On the faceoff, Marcus Nilsson and Brad Richardson mix it up a bit, with Nilsson pushing Richardson into the boards. The two get up as play continues elsewhere, Nilsson jabs at Richardson with his stick, and then gets blown over by some sort of strange wind gust or something. Richardson gets 2 minutes for...hmmm...ah, two minutes for "telekinetic pushing."
- 5:47 Colorado is now controlling the tempo (they would end up holding a 17-9 shot advantage on the period). On yet another down low cycling clinic, Sakic gets possession of the puck behind the net. He moves in front, pushes it across the crease, and it apparently goes in off of Andrew Brunette. I watched the replay a couple of times, and I still think it went off of Brad Stuart's skate (meaning Sakic's goal), but it's the end result that matters. Colorado has tied the game 2-2.
- 7:35 Colorado has been playing 7 defensemen quite a bit lately. Here's Exhibit A on why I think that will change in the next game. Here, Matt Lombardi steals the puck at center ice and races (and I mean races) towards the Colorado net. He beats Kurt Sauer pretty handily to give himself a great 1 on 1 chance on Budaj which he doesn't squander. But Sauer is not the goat on this play. That award goes to Ossi Vaananen who had a playable angle, but dogged it all the way back. OV plays just 4 shifts after this one.
- 15:09 This one was crushing for two reasons. One, it put the Flames back up 4-2, even though the Avs were playing amazing hockey. Two? Damn, I miss Alex Tanguay. Tanguay gets the puck at the boards; he doesn't have much time to look around, but that doesn't matter - he finds Iginla open (again) for the 3rd (and final) stoppable goal for Budaj. Budaj comes out, Theodore comes in, Draft Dodger throws the remote.
- 15:59 Boy, that Dion Phaneuf can hit, eh? Phaneuf LEVELS Brett McLean. One small problem: McLean never touched the puck. Phaneuf gets a well-deserved interference call.
- 17:33 And that call gets the Avs back in the game. On the ensuing powerplay, Andrew Brunette finds Milan Hejduk alone on the far side of the net. Hejduk struggles with the pass, but gets control quickly enough to beat a crossing Kiprusoff. 4-3.
- 19:17 Late in the period, Joe Sakic wins a key faceoff in the Calgary zone. Skrastins gets the puck and fires it intentionally wide of the net. Hejduk moves right to it (like it was a set play...), grabs it behind the net, and banks it in off the back of Kipper's leg. Huge, huge goal. Colorado gets a goal in the last minute of all three periods tonight (hope that doesn't spoil it for anyone).
- 6:54 It's been tied, but there's no question which team is in control. It's all Colorado. You just feel that the go-ahead goal is an eventuality, and Brett Clark makes it happen, gathering a loose puck in front of the net and putting it past Kipper. The goal initially was waved off, but once play stopped it was a pretty easy review. A Calgary defensemen cleared the puck, but not until it crossed the line. Thankfully, the bouncing puck was on it's edge - had it been flat on the ice, it probably would not have made it across. Clark's goal is one of 5 points from Avalanche defenders tonight.
- 8:51 Exhibit B. After his trouble earlier, Vaananen seals the healthy scratch (in my mind) with a poor clearing attempt. It hits Wayne Primeau along the boards, and bounces right to Matt Lombardi in front of the net. Lombardi makes it 5-5 again with his 2nd goal. It's the only goal that Theo would give up. Granted, thanks to the relentless Colorado forechecking game, he only faced 9 shots in his 25 minutes. But at least two of his 8 saves were really strong. To be fair to Vaananen, the puck did take a crazy bounce to set up Lombardi, but there was no pressure for him to try to clear the puck from in deep like that. He had plenty of room to carry the puck out to get a better opportunity. If I'm a betting man, I put $10 on Vaananen sitting the next game.
- 10:16 Colorado takes the lead for good on Hejduk's 3rd goal of the night (a beautiful redirection of a Ken Klee pass from the point). Hejduk ends the night with a season-high 9 shots. His 3 points give him 11 in the last 7 games (and 4 multipoint games).
- 19:50 Peter McNab called it. With time running down, and the Avs keeping the pressure on the Flames all period long, he predicted that Sakic would score his 600th on an empty netter. And, he was right. With Kipprusoff on the bench, the Avs got control of the puck in the Calgary zone. Paul Stastny got control and immediately looked for his captain. Sakic buried #600 and was immediately mobbed by all of his teammates. A great ending to a great game.
Same line combination tonight, with 7 defenseman and Klee primarily used as a defenseman. Liles, according to published reports, is in the doghouse, and played sparingly for the 2nd straight game (8:22 total, just 4:49 at EV). Because I have to put him somewhere, I listed him on the 4th line. Really, with just 11 forwards, the lines changed pretty frequently. Wojtek Wolski also has some doghouse time, with no PP minutes and an extended stay in the 2nd period on the 4th line.
During the game, Peter McNab mentioned that Pierre Turgeon is back on the IR because of (*insert old age injury here*). Ok, it's his calf. Turgeon is not with the team for this trip.
C Sakic, LW Wolski, RW Brunette: 15:59 ATOI (EV), 6 pts (EV), 8 shots, -2
C Stastny, LW May, RW Hejduk: 13:45 ATOI (EV), 5 pts (EV), 15 shots, +4
C Arnason, LW McLean, RW Laperriere: 13:57 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 3 shots, -6
C Guite, LW Richardson, RW Liles: 9:11 ATOI (EV), 2 pts (EV), 4 shots, +3
D Clark & D Skrastins: 20:30 ATOI (EV), 3 pts (EV), 3 shots, +2
D Klee & D Vaananen: 11:43 ATOI (EV), 1 pt (EV), 0 shots, +1
D Leopold & D Sauer: 18:57 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 2 shots, -2
- This is the 9th time the Avs have dressed 7 defensemen. Colorado is 7-2 in those games.
- Colorado has 8 PP goals in the last 5 games, while giving up just 2.
- Alex Tanguay had a nice game, with 3 assists. Somehow, Rogers SportsNet analyst Ryan Walter felt his contributions were more important than Sakic's 2 goals and 3 assists (he award Tanguay the 2nd star, Sakic the 3rd. Hejduk was, correctly, first star). Tanguay was -1 and played 14 minutes. Sakic was +1 and played 21. Nice job, Ryan. You aren't Canadian by any chance, are you?