It was another case of good news, bad news for the Avalanche on Saturday. The Avs played an almost perfect game against Minnesota, dropping the Wild 2-1. Unfortunately, the Calgary Flames also won last night, dropping the Canucks 3-2 in Vancouver. The Flames are hot at just the wrong time for Colorado; Calgary's 6-game winning streak has the Avalanche on the ropes. A Calgary win or a Colorado loss in regulation will officially end this marvelous comeback attempt. The Avs could conceivably end up watching the playoffs with a 97-point season. Wild, wild West, indeed.
The Avs started out poorly against the Wild yesterday, landing a penalty on the first shift and allowing a goal on the first shot. But, they rebounded quickly and worked hard the rest of the way, and ultimately were helped out by an uncharacteristically undisciplined Minnesota squad. By the 2nd period, they had broken through the Wild's stifling protect-the-lead defense, and, finally, with a lead of their own, were able to give Minnesota a taste of their own medicine over the final 27 minutes of play.
Highlights of the game...
19:34 Brett Clark gets called for holding on the first shift of the game. Not a great start.
18:39 And a bad start gets even worse, with Marian Gaborik beating Peter Budaj on the first shot of the game. Gaborik has a great shot, but that's a save Budaj should have made. This is a lousy way to start things out; maybe Colorado can petition for a do-over?
17:30 Hejduk is foolishly stickhandling right in front of Budaj, and loses it. It bounces of the stick of Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Budaj has to make a tough save.
16:18 Brad Richardson started the game with Sakic, but Quenneville goes with Wolski this time.
16:01 Wojtek gets two good scoring chances on Wild goalie Josh Harding.
15:36 Tonight's Guitar Hero sighting: "Bark at the Moon" plays over the Pepsi Center PA.
13:07 Ben Guite appears to touch the puck to beat an icing call, but it gets called anyway. After a conference of referees (and an appearance of 12 shades of red on the face of Joel Quenneville), they move the faceoff to center ice).
11:57 Tyler Arnason gets a good scoring chance with some of his now-trademark stickhandling. Altidude Peter McNab says Arnason is "everything the Avalanche expected". I'd argue he's been quite a bit better than expected.
10:23 Wolski has been looking excellent so far. He's skating very well without the puck - something that is not always the case.
9:29 Branko Radivojevic rattles on off the post.
8:46 Arnason finds some alone time with the puck in front of the net. His shot is blocked, and he tries to bat the rebound out of the air. Harding ends up trapping it against the post. The play is reviewed, but no goal. Here's my beef: It's 2007. Do we really have no better technology than refs talking on 30-year old beige phones fed through a hole in the glass? Couldn't we spring for a wireless headset for the ref?
3:37 Former Av Martin Skoula gets called for a cross-check against Brett McLean. It's the first powerplay of the night for the Avs.
1:23 Ben Guite gets kicked out of the faceoff circle for the 3rd time this period.
Wes Walz gets interviewed during the 1st intermission. In a touching act of appreciation during the interview, Altitude flashes the graphic that Walz is currently in the longest scoring draught of his career. Gee, thanks guys.
17:32 John-Michael Liles is mushed into the boards by Derek Boogaard. Boogard gets called for boarding. On the bench, Ian Laperriere mutters "why me" softly (just guessing on that part). Liles is hurt on the play, and is tended to by the trainer behind the bench.
15:35 Liles recovers just in time to score a goal. Tyler Arnason starts the play along the sideboards. He stickhandles towards the net, drawing the attention of several Wild players. He dishes to Wolski. Wolski gets a shot/pass thing off that goes wide, but right to the stick of Liles on the backdoor. Liles gets up gingerly after the play, but seems to be ok. On the play, Arnason matches a career high for assists and Liles matches a career high for goals. Obviously, the assist is a career high for Wolski as well.
13:24 Boogaard is at it again, this time dumping Ben Guite on what has to be the clearest example of interference you'll ever see. No call is made. The play continues until Brett Burns commits a penalty that the refs will call - hooking. Guite, to his credit, goes right to Boogaard after the whistle to chew him out.
11:40 Marek Svatos has a chance to make it 2-1. On the powerplay, he's dropped in a battle in front of the net. He gets up, slowly, and just in time to have the puck find its way to him. He's slow pulling the trigger, though, and can't get it past Harding.
10:48 Laperriere and Boogaard are out together for a face off. The two exchange many kind words before the puck is dropped. On the following play, two old friends get together - Stephane Veilleux pushes Ossi Vaananen over the Colorado boards. The pair had a bunch of physical battles in the last meeting, and it seems to have carried over.
10:42 Lappy gets a big hit on Boogaard. It sure looks like a fight is coming.
10:35 The V-guys, Veilleux and Vaananen, connect again. Veilleux checks Vaananen hard, although the Wild player seems to get the worst of that one.
9:59 Offensive zone penalty for Brett McLean. Hooking against Schultz.
8:06 Budaj makes a save on a blistering slap shot from Brian Rolston through traffic.
7:44 Bouchard gets called for hooking against Brett McLean.
6:33 Paul Stastny scores to take the lead, punching in a rebound from Milan Hejduk's post-ringer. All 5 guys on the ice - Stastny, Hejduk, Brunette, Sakic and Liles - worked hard on this one. There were a number of places where Minnesota had a chance to steal and clear, but the Avs kept working on this one, and end up with the go ahead goal. Brunette's assist is a career high for him, and, of course, Stastny's goal is a new high for him. Hejduk is the only Avalanche to score tonight who didn't set a career high in something.
2:34 Mark Rycroft breaks in, but loses the puck off of his stick. In many ways, Rycroft reminds me of Dan Hinote. Certainly, he's had a few too many scoring chances that fizzle lately.
19:44 Brad Richardson starts things off with a good shot. Save by Harding.
19:36 Keith Carney gets called for hooking.
19:02 Liles goes down to break up a shorthanded odd-man rush by the Wild.
18:32 Liles gets a one-timer attempt after some pretty pinball passing by the PP unit. Harding makes the save, and alliteration surrenders.
15:39 Tyler Arnason goes to the box for hooking.
14:51 Bouchard hits the post. The Wild were inches from tying the game.
14:18 Kurt Sauer gets called for holding, putting the Avs on a 5 on 3. Joel Quenneville is crazy livid at the call, and it looks like he might have a bit of a beef - it looked like a clean play from Sauer.
14:03 Blocker save on a shot from Avalanche-killer Mikko Koivu
13:48 Brett Clark takes a slapshot from Brian Rolston off of his skate. It's a play that looks similar to the way Liles broke his foot (against the Wild, no less). Clark goes off gingerly.
13:18 Arnason clears the puck. For a second, I'm dumbfounded that Arnason is on the ice shorthanded (just 11 minutes shorthanded all year, most of them garbage time as penalties are expiring). Then I realized Arnason was on after coming out of the box.
12:33 Clark is back on the ice.
12:04 More Guitar Hero: Stray Cats "Rock This Town".
9:28 Wolski poke checks the puck away from Wes Walz coming into the zone. It's similar to the play that Skrastins flubbed against Vancouver. Except, of course, that Wolski was succesful.
6:29 Rycroft forces a turnover, and breaks in. And no, of course he doesn't score. On the way, though, he draws a slashing penalty from Martin Skoula. Like the Sauer penalty, I don't think this one was really a penalty.
:52 Empty net for Minnesota. Laperriere makes a great play, beating the Wild player coming off the bench to a loose puck and clearing it.
:14 Furious action in front of the net.
:08 Cleared cooly by Stastny. Colorado wins.
After that first shift, Wolski moves back to the first line. Ian Laperriere returns from the groin injury (his first scratch in an Avalanche uniform), bumping Svatos down to the 4th line. Scott Parker was a scratch.
On defense, Ossi Vaananen returned to the lineup, and Jeff Finger was a scratch. Vaananen paired with his old partner Ken Klee, moving Liles to play with Skrastins. Liles has now played with everyone at even strength except Kyle Cumiskey and Brett Clark this year.
C Sakic, LW Wolski, RW Brunette: 11:54 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 10 shots, E
C Stastny, LW McLean, RW Hejduk: 10:06 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 7 shots, E
C Arnason, LW Richardson, RW Laperriere: 12:21 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 5 shots, E
C Guite, LW Rycroft, RW Svatos: 8:53 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 4 shots, E
D Clark & D Sauer: 15:31 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 1 shot, E
D Liles & D Skrastins: 10:49 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 2 shots, E
D Klee & D Vaananen: 15:34 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 1 shot, E
- Peter Budaj earned his 29th win in the game. That's a career high for him. It's not just an NHL high, it's his professional best, matching his 29 win AHL season from 2004-05.
- Over this big 15 game stretch, the Avs are allowing just 24.5 shots against per game. They've allowed 30+ shots just twice (both wins). In the 15 games previous, the Avalanche had 8 games of 30+ shots allowed (4-3-1).
- Ossi Vaananen (27:36) and Jeff Finger (24:34) have not been on the ice for an opposition PP goal this year.