And the playoff push continues. On Thursday, it was Joe Sakic leading the way. This time, it was the Milan Hejduk Show, as the Czech winger put up a hat trick to lead the Avalanche past the Canucks. It was a terrific game to watch, with both teams (and both goalies) at the top of their game. This Vancouver team, with their smothering penalty kill and elite goaltending, is going to be very strong in the postseason.
After the game, many Avalanche fans waited for the outcome of the Calgary / San Jose game. The Sharks seemed to be cruising to an easy victory, leading 4-1 midway through the 3rd period. But, like the Tuesday game in Calgary, the Flames mounted a late rally, with Jarome Iginla scoring two 3rd period goals to cut the lead to 4-3. Ultimately, San Jose held on, becoming the first team to help up out in the standings since Minnesota beat the Flames back on March 17th. Now, we have to beat the Predators and pray that the Oilers can muster enough to beat the Flames in Calgary on Saturday.
Highlights of the game...
76 wins between the pipes tonight, 30 from Budaj and 46 from Luongo.
19:43 These two teams are a combined 25-3-4 since the trading deadline, which proves once and for all just how sensational Scott Parker and Bryan Smolinski are.
19:35 Milan Hejduk scores! Paul Stastny chips it in, and Hejduk picks up the puck, finds room betwen 3 Vancouver skaters, and fires it to the far side of the net past Roberto Luongo.
19:05 Brendan Morrison and Matt Cooke get a 2 on 1 transition break. Ken Klee is back to break it up. Andrew Brunette is also back to lend support.
18:20 Hejduk has more goals in his career against Vancouver than any other franchise, although the goal tonight was his first goal of the season against the Canucks. Gee, do you think the move from Dan Cloutier to Roberto Luongo has had any impact on anything?
16:14 Andrew Brunette gets called for interference. It's a borderline call; really, it seemed like Luongo was out of his crease.
13:42 Sakic has a scoring chance that just misses the net.
12:27 John-Michael Liles turns the puck over behind the net to a forechecking Markus Naslund. The puck goes to the point, and Matt Cooke gets to it ahead of Paul Stastny. He pokes it to Morrison, and Morrison moves it to Naslund, who has positioned himself in front of the net. The puck goes in, but a review shows that Naslund deflected it in off of his skate. It was very reminiscent of a similar non-goal from Naslund earlier this year. Colorado gets a big break, and still holds a 1-0 lead.
12:01 Less than 30 seconds later, the Canucks score for real. Matt Cooke tosses it back to Sami Salo at the point, and Salo floats a knuckler in that fools Budaj. Cooke is another one of these Mikko Kapanen types - he always seems to save his best games for the Avalanche. He would be all over the ice tonight, earning a third star by the time this one ended.
11:40 Brett McLean's wraparound attempt can't find it's way home. The Hejduk, Stastny and McLean line looks to be the line tonight (and yes, I really did right that before the rest of the game unfolded).
10:21 On a relatively harmless dump in, Liles dogs it to the puck and Jan Bulis beats him to it. That's two bad defensive plays from Liles in two minutes.
10:09 Alex Burrows' booming shot is blocked by Ben Guite.
9:38 Mark Rycroft gets hit along the boards by Burrows, forcing a turnover and leading to a shot from the point from Brent Sopel.
5:08 Rycroft is run into the boards by the Vancouver bench. I couldn't get the number of the truck that hit him.
5:01 I'm pretty sure it wasn't Jeff Cowan, but, nonetheless, Rycroft comes right back and gives Cowan a good hit on the other side of the ice.
Hejduk is interviewed between periods. Am I the only one who thinks that Hejduk looks just like the poker dealer in Casino Royale? In an extraordinary bit of real-life foreshadowing, Hejduk reveals that Luongo cheats a bit to his glove side at times.
19:11 Salo with a hard shot, save by Budaj.
17:09 Vancouver takes their first penalty, with Kevin Bieska hooking Ben Guite.
16:29 After a play gets whistled for offsides, Matt Cooke gets caught on camera muttering "fuck off", presumably to one of the Avs. It's a little odd to me, as the Avalanche are on the powerplay, and none of their normal irritants are on the ice.
15:52 2 on 1 shorthanded breakaway for the Canucks. Morrison's shot goes through the legs of Budaj, but Budaj gets just enough of it to deflect it wide.
15:17 Sakic makes a brilliant pass to Hejduk. After Luongo makes the save, the puck bounces dangerously high in the air before dropping back down into his glove.
13:46 The score is 0-0 in San Jose.
13:18 Bieksa gets called for hooking again. The Canucks are so dangerous shorthanded, I'm not sure that a PP opportunity is something to cheer for.
11:45 Liles stands up Bulis coming into the zone, but Bulis presses on and pushes through Liles.
10:52 Kurt Sauer tackles one of the Sedins, the 2nd time in the game it looks like he got away with a questionable move.
10:06 Brett McLean and Karlis Skrastins both make good plays at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone on an extended shift for the Avalanche.
9:44 The first period is over in San Jose, with the score 0-0.
7:16 Willie Mitchell gets the third Vancouver penalty of the period after hooking Milan Hejduk.
4:30 Guite takes a shot on a 2 on 1 break. Luongo makes another beautiful save.
4:12 Arnason, Wolski and (I think) Laperriere break in with a scoring chance. Luongo pokes it away at the last minute.
4:01 An amusing play. Cowen loses his stick, and it lands in front of Sauer. Sauer's back is to Cowen, and doesn't see him skating over to pick up the stick. Just as he's bending down to grab it, Sauer sweeps it out of the crease.
3:18 Matthias Ohlund's shot is blocked by Finge, and his rebound attempt is stopped by a great kick save from Budaj.
2:45 Hejduk has another good chance that is stymied by Luongo.
2:31 Clark blocks a shot. There is some crazy back and forth action in the game right now.
1:39 Cooke gets a good shot off. Budaj makes a glove save.
During the break, I jump over to the Flames game. When I step in, the score is still 0-0. The Sharks landed a 5 on 3 powerplay, but couldn't convert (a Cheechoo shot went off the crossbar). Later, Dion Phaneuf tangles with Ryan Clowe. It looks like they are ready to go, but when Clowe drops his gloves, Diver Dion skates away. Later in the shift, Phaneuf runs at Clowe. Clowe gets an elbow up, giving Phaneuf a well-deserved shot to the mouth. Not long after that, Milan Michalek scores to make it 1-0.
20:00 The Aptitude graphic guy strikes again. According to the screen, Luongo has made 16 saves this season. Budaj has just 10. You'd think they would have had a bit more than that, this many games into the year.
18:09 Tyler Arnason appears to get away with one, as he helps Sopel into the boards with a helping hand. I definitely think the refs have missed a few penalties by the Avs tonight. Ironic, since the one penalty they have called on the Avalanche probably wasn't a penalty.
17:10 Vancouver gets nabbed for two many men on the ice.
16:13 McLean takes a long shot, Sakic has a great chance with the rebound. Luongo makes the save. Vancouver fans start chanting "MVP".
15:33 Liles gets beat on another dump in. Budaj tries to intercept the puck above the goal line, but it trickles into that stupid penalty zone, leaving Budaj in no man's land. He's able to get back in time.
14:17 Budaj makes a beauty of a save on Henrik Sedin.
13:03 Hejduk scores to make it 2-1. Stastny sets this one up beautifully, working the puck behind the net to give Hejduk time to come in on a change. Hejduk's shot is almost identical to the first goal.
12:07 Skrastins is knocked away by Trevor Linden as both players chase down a loose puck. Vancouver has been terrific at this all game.
11:31 San Jose leads 2-1. Bell and Huselius have scored.
9:43 Svatos hangs tough on the forecheck, taking a hit from Morrison and forcing a turnover.
9:07 And it's a hat trick for Hejduk. McLean dishes from behind the net, while falling to the ice. Hejduk finds himself alone in front of Luongo, and shows tremendous patience, waiting until Luongo drops to fire it home. 3-1 Colorado. It's the 3rd assist of the night for Stastny.
8:29 Vancouver hits the post. Tense game.
7:47 Brunette gets called for hooking. Tense game.
6:36 Henrik Sedin has his 2nd big chance of the period, and Budaj another gorgeous save. Tense game.
1:43 Luongo is pulled.
0:00 And that's it. Colorado is 10-0-2 in their last 12 games. The Avs are now the biggest fans of the Edmonton Oilers in the world.
Same combo as the previous game.
C Sakic, LW Wolski, RW Brunette: 14:52 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 4 shots, -3
C Stastny, LW McLean, RW Hejduk: 12:13 ATOI (EV), 7 pts (EV), 12 shots, +8
C Arnason, LW Richardson, RW Laperriere: 13:33 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 3 shots, E
C Guite, LW Rycroft, RW Svatos: 7:19 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 4 shots, +1
D Clark & D Sauer: 19:21 ATOI (EV), 1 pt (EV), 4 shots, +2
D Klee & D Skrastins: 18:59 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 1 shot, E
D Liles & D Finger: 8:46 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 2 shots, +2
- Sauer got an assist on the first Hejduk goal, giving him 6 points on the season. That's a career high...and gives him more points than Jordan Leopold.
- Whichever team makes the playoffs, the team on the outside looking in will likely have more goals than any other non-playoff team. The Avs have 264 goals, the Flames have 253. The Leafs have 252, but have just one game remaining.
- Hejduk had 10 shots in the game. No other player - for either team - had more than 3.