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2/20 Colorado 4, Calgary 3

It wasn't exactly the best of days for me. I'm starting to come down with a cold, and, since I was mostly immobilized on the couch, I was forced to sit through 2 hours of American Idol with my wife before I got to watch the game. But once I got to the Avs, my day brightened considerably. Not only did the Avs win (and pulled to within 8 points of they final playoff spot), but they seemed to have gotten the Flaming Monkey off of their back. They've shown they can beat the Flames (finally). This is important, as they play Calgary three more times this year, including twice in the last week. If the Avalanche are still in it, those will be must-win games.

Here's some highlights from the game:


1st Period (time counts down)

16:40 Ben Guite gets the first penalty of the game, with a high stick behind the Calgary net.

15:47 Calgary's PP looks terrible. In fact, the Avs get the best scoring chance when Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny get a nice breakout, with Ken Klee also helping keep the puck in. Miika Kiprusoff makes a good save to keep the game scoreless.

14:21 Just 20 seconds after the Guite penalty expires, Marcus Nilsson gets called for hooking Joe Sakic at center ice. After seeing Nilsson's theatrics on Thursday, I'm kind of surprised he didn't immediately drop to the ice like he was shot after taking the penalty.

13:21 The refs miss a penalty that would have given the Avs a 5 on 3 when D Brad Stuart slashes Joe Sakic behind the Calgary net, knocking the stick out of Sakic's hand. No call - the slash happened just as the referee down low was turned away from the play.

12:41 COLORADO SCORE. Milan Hejduk doesn't get a point here, but his play at the blueline was key. With Sakic pinching in from the point, the Flames attempt to clear looks like it's on the way out of the zone. But Hejduk catches up to it and makes an amazing play at the blueline to keep the puck in. He gets it back to Sakic on the left boards, who moves it to Andrew Brunette behind the net (where else?) and Bruno dishes to Paul Stastny in front. Stastny scores - it's his 20th goal of the year. He's the 3rd Avalanche rookie to hit the 20-goal mark (joining Chris Drury and Marek Svatos). It also ties him with Alex Tanguay with the rookie point mark...but not for long. 1-0 Colorado
11:04 Peter Budaj makes a save on one of 5 Dion Phaneuf shots on the night, and then gloves Daymond Langkow's rebound try out of the air. That's Budaj at his best - he gave up the rebound on the first shot, but he didn't get out of position, putting him in the right spot to grab the follow up.

10:29 CALGARY SCORE. Jeff Finger is making his NHL debut tonight - the 10th defenseman the Avs have dressed this season. For the 10th time, Joel Quenneville dresses 7 D, so Finger can get ice time without feeling too much pressure. He doesn't look good here, 3 shifts into his NHL career. After an Avalanche breakout is stopped, the Flames get a breakout in the other direction. Wayne Primeau races up the right wing and then crosses a pass to Tony Amonte for the easy score. The pass went right through Finger's legs. You have to either play the 2nd man (Amonte) or stop that pass. It's only one game - and his minutes were limited - but I didn't see a ton to make me excited from Finger tonight. 1-1
8:13 Calgary's Matt Lombardi gets called for tripping

7:42 And Jeff Friesen gets called for hooking, putting the Avs on a 5 on 3.

7:36 Just a few second later, Dion Phaneuf blatantly trips Paul Stastny. It was away from the play (just barely in the camera frame), but should have been seen by somebody. Hell, Phaneuf broke his stick on the play. And then, to solidify his Asshat of the Night award, he has the balls to trash talk Stastny after the play.

6:05 COLORADO SCORE. Hejduk does get a point on this one. He gets the puck down low and crosses it to Stastny. While stickhandling, the puck hits a skate, but Stastny gets it back, moves in front of an open net (Kiprussof was not able to get back into position from the pass) and puts it home. Stastny sets the Avs rookie scoring record (52 points). 2-1 Colorado.

2:31 Brad Richardson gets called for goaltender interference knocked to the ice by Dion Phaneuf. Richardson and Phaneuf matched up against each other all night. He's no Brad May, but Richie did all right. This penalty hurts, though because...

1:59 CALGARY SCORE. Dion Phaneuf gets the puck at the point, skates along the blueline until he finds a screen, and then fires a hard wrister past Budaj. I really hate Phaneuf the 8 games in the season he plays against Colorado. But he's a marvelous player to watch those other 74 games.

:53 COLORADO SCORE. No quit in this Colorado team. They've had times where they've let up on opponents and allowed them to get back into games, but I can't recall them giving up in any game this year. Many teams would have been content to go into the break with the game tied, but the Avs kept pushing. Milan Hejduk skated in from the blueline, deking past both Andrei Zyuzin and Rhett Warrener (and faking out the Altitude cameraman as well) before backhanding a shot past Kiprusoff. Weak effort from the Flames, amazing individual effort from Hejduk (one he almost repeated just a few seconds later). Also, Kurt Sauer is credited with an assist, his 2nd. That means the NHL has finally given him the assist incorrectly awarded to Brad May on Sakic's 600th goal (May wasn't even on the ice). Sauer, with 16 NHL points, gets in the record books on a milestone goal. Colorado 3-2.>

2nd Period

19:36 The 2nd period started with a vintage Alex Tanguay play - the famous breakaway- miss-bitch-about-the-non-call play. To be fair, Tanguay was tripped by Karlis Skrastins on the play. But staying behind to jaw at the refs about being wronged while the play is still going on makes Tanguay look selfish.

14:41 Ossi Vaananen gets called for interference.

14:26 CALGARY SCORE. The Flames take advantage. Jarome Iginla moves the puck across the ice to a wide open Kristian Huselius. This is almost a carbon copy of the play that put the game away for Calgary on Saturday. Way to watch the game film, guys.

13:35 Ken Klee gets a big hit on someone. I think it was Craig Conroy, but I'm not 100% sure. These teams played each other 3 times in 6 games, and both teams injured one of the other players - Vaananen with a boarding on David Moss and Conroy with an uncalled interference hit on Wojtek Wolski. Surprisingly, both teams kept their eye on the prize and played for the win, not for revenge.

11:08 Phanuef hits Guite in the back of the head, as Guite sat on the ice after a whistle. No call.

3rd Period

19:48 Jarome Iginla gets called for holding in the offensive zone. Not a penalty you want to be taking any time, let alone in a game like this.

18:36 COLORADO SCORE: Marek Svatos puts in the game winner. John-Michael Liles feeds Svatos with an awesome 2-line pass. Svatos gets a breakaway and beats his man (and Kiprusoff) for the PP goal. Colorado 4-3.

16:31 Karlis Skrastins gets called for holding, the first of 3 penalties the Avs shouldn't have taken in the 3rd period.

15:05 Brad Richardson gets a hooking call, putting the Flames on a 5 on 3. Peter Budaj earns the win on this PP, making some great saves. The best might have been the save on Huselius, which was a carbon copy of another goal he scored on Saturday. I take the game film statement back. Budaj is watching the film (he reportedly is a great student of the game). It's just the rest of the team that needs to follow suit.

8:46 Sauer gets called for hooking. Of all the calls tonight against Colorado, this is probably the weakest. Colorado kills it off, though. Budaj stops all 16 3rd period shots, and 27 of 28 after Hejduk's goal late in the first to make it 3-2. Better goaltending is one of the keys to the Avs' playoff hopes.
3:58 Brad May and Phaneuf get tangled up in the offensive zone. Pepsi Center fans want a call, but it doesn't happen (it looked more like incidental contact from my sofa). But here's the thing about Phaneuf. He had the Stastny trip, the dirty hit on Guite, and so on tonight. I get that he's a nasty player and wants to punish other teams. That's great. At some point, though, his reputation for this sort of cheap crap is going to draw unwanted attention from the refs. I call it the Darcy Tucker Syndrome. Eventually, he's going to get called for every little thing - and it's going to hurt his team. Two years from now, when his rep as a dirty player has increased, that incidental mashup with May is going to be a penalty on Non-Neon Dion.

3:32 Jeff Friesen has a chance to create something, but is stood up by Sauer as he comes in along the side boards. A lot of people don't like Sauer, but I think he's gotten a bad rap. Look, he's never going to get confused with Bobby Orr back there, but he's a solid, stay at home guy who very quietly gets the job done. He doesn't play in a system that allows for big hits, and he doesn't have offensive ability, so you have to watch a little harder to see the things that he does for us. Plays like this one.

1:16 Roman Hamrlick ends Calgary's comeback chance, by leveling Tyler Arnason with no puck in sight. It was a clear penalty, which didn't stop Roman from throwing a massive nutty in the box.

EV Lines

No stats yet, as it'll take some time this afternoon to work Jeff Finger into the big spreadsheet. Wojtek Wolski missed his 2nd straight game with that head injury. Mark Rycroft was a healthy scratch so Q could dress the 7 D. Brad Richardson played with Sakic and Brunette again, and had a great game and was rewarded with 19:37 of ice time. This game and the Vancouver game Sunday are the only two times this year he's broken 16 minutes.

Quick Hits

  • Hejduk's 1st period goal was the 4th goal in 4 games scored in the last minute of a period. Hejduk has 2 of them and Sakic has the other 2.

  • olorado is now 8-2 when they dress 7 defensemen.