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Game 31: Flyers 5, Avalanche 2

A Not-So-Special Night For The Boys In Burgundy


Photo by Tom Mihalek (AP)

Final - 12.16.2008 1 2 3 Total
Colorado Avalanche 1 1 0 2
Philadelphia Flyers 2 2 1 5

Complete Coverage >

Welcome back to earth, Avalanche fans. Just 24 hours after topping the hated Red Wings, the Avalanche lost to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers beat the Avs the way I thought the Red Wings were going to - by eventually overwhelming the Avalanche with a potent offensive attack.

I poke fun of the Altitudes and their - shall we call it "team-friendly" approach to calling a game? -  but I have to give props to Peter McNab. He said early on that, with the Avalanche in the 2nd night of back-to-back road games, the Avs would need to get out to an early lead on Philadelphia. If they fell behind, they probably wouldn't have the energy to come back. He also said that special teams would be a huge key in the game. He was right on both counts.

The Avs did come out with jump, and put up 13 shots on Philadelphia goalie Anterri Niitymaki in the first period. And, they scored the all-important first goal. At the 9:23 mark, with the Avs on a powerplay, Paul Stastny won an offensive faceoff and kicked the puck into the corner. Both Flyer defensemen - Kimmo Timonen and Ossi Vaananen - went behind the goal line to retrieve the puck, and both failed. Timonen got tied up by Ryan Smyth and Vaananen got manhandled by Milan Hejduk (uh, we miss you Ossi). Meanwhile, the puck lazily trickled to the front of the net, where Stastny scored an easy goal.

The early lead didn't hold up. Mike Knuble scored a PP marker from the goal crease despite being surrounded by three Avalanche defenders. It seemed like we were headed to a doable 1-1 tie after 1. But, late in the first and with the Avalanche on a powerplay, the puck took a bad karem to the stick of Simon Gagne leading to a 2-on-1 the other way. Gagne moved up ice before feeding Jeff Carter at the last minute. Carter buried it to give the Flyers their 12th freaking shorthanded goal of the season.

It also effectively buried the Avs. Colorado played hard in the 2nd, but the Flyers were just too much. As the period wore on, the ice began to tilt a bit and more and more action was taking place in the Avalanche zone. At the 11:24 mark, Joffrey Lupul rushed in on the right wing and slammed on the brakes, sending Daniel Tjarnqvist sprawling to the ice. This gave Lupol plenty of room to fire a terrific shot past Peter Budaj to make it 3-1. About 90 seconds later, the puck took a wild hop off the top of the net. Budaj lost sight of it and in the scramble to find it either he or Scott Hannan knocked the puck in to the net. That made it 4-1, and the rest of the game was a formality. David Jones added another highlight-reel goal (a gorgeous deflection of a TJ Hensick shot) to make it 4-2, but Simon Gagne scored on the PP early in the third to finish out the scoring for the night. By then, it was so over that Simon Gagne skipped part of the final period to get a massage.

Maybe I'm still riding high from the Detroit win, but I'm not too broken up over the loss. I thought the team played well overall in what was supposed to be a brutal pair of games. This game got away from them in the end, and it's as clear as ever that the Avalanche need to find a bonafide scorer for their 2nd line (in addition to Forsberg, I mean), but I can live with grabbing two points from two of the league's best teams.


The forward lines were unchanged from the Detroit game (Altitude listed them wrong during the broadcast). After the game, Philippe Dupuis was sent back to Lake Erie, so obviously the team expects one of the three injured forwards - Svatos, Tucker or Guite - to play on Thursday.

On defense, Ruslan Salei was scratched for Daniel Tjarnqvist. I'm on record as saying that Tjarnqvist has played well, and I know many folks were up in arms over the scratch. Personally, I would rather see him filling in for injuries rather than bumping other guys out of the lineup. He's good, but he's not going to be great (he still seems good for one big gaffe a game, like on the Lupol goal). He's an excellent depth player, and, potentially someone who could step in if the Avs need to move a defenseman (or trade bait himelf). But let's not get carried away with the letter-writing campaign to keep him in the lineup.

Quick Hits

  • Stastny has 10 points (4g, 6a) in 9 games since getting branded with the non-scarlet letter. He has a point in 6 of those 9 games.
  • Chris Stewart had his first NHL fight when he challenged Aaron Asham after Asham checked David Jones into the Flyers' bench. As usual, the Altitude cameras missed the start of the fight. Stewart took Asham down eaily and quickly.
  • Dupuis won 9 of his 12 faceoffs and the Avs won 64% overall.

Next Up

The worst is over. The Avalanche finish up the 4 game road trip with an extended swing through Florida. The Avs take on the lowly Lightning on Thursday before visiting the better-than-you-think Florida Panthers on Sunday.

Other Recaps

CRASH!!! That's the sound of the Avs falling back down to Earth after an improbable win last night in Detroit. And that's not to say that the Avs didn't play well tonight, because they did. But they just seemed to be a bit outmatched by a better team who wanted it more, and who managed a few lucky bounces on the way. - Adam Hersch, An Avalanche of Thoughts

The Avalanche had beaten the Flyers five straight times. Philadelphia's previous win over Colorado was 2-1 in overtime in 2002. The Flyers hadn't won a meeting in Philadelphia since 1999, also in overtime, 5-4. - AP

For the first time since being acquired at the trade deadline last season, Avalanche defenseman Ruslan Salei was a healthy scratch in Tuesday's game against Philadelphia. But Avs coach Tony Granato tried to downplay the move that saw Daniel Tjarnqvist take his place in the lineup. "We've got seven NHL defensemen. I didn't want Daniel to sit out another month and a half," Granato said. "Rusty is a big part of our team, and he's going to play." - Adrian Dater, Denver Post

Tjarnqvist played well in his first nine games but wasn't at his best against the Flyers. He logged the fewest minutes (14:22) of the defensemen, had one shot on goal and was a minus-2. - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News

Salei being a healthy scratch tonight definitely got some conspiracy theorists going about him. - Adrian Dater (on the possibility that the Avalanche might be working to trade for Chris Drury), All Things Avs

After the strong start to the game, the Avs' special teams started to go haywire. With Wojtek Wolski in the penalty box for holding, Mike Knuble tied it up for Philadelphia on the power play at 11:37. Then, with 1:48 left in the period and the Avs on the power play, Colorado's Brett Clark was caught as the lone defenseman back on a 2-on-1 short-handed break between Jeff Carter and Gagne. Carter's one-timer beat Budaj, who was late sliding from left to right. It was Philadelphia's league-leading 12th short-handed goal. - Adrian Dater, Denver Post

Poor special-teams play was more than enough to sink the Avalanche against the NHL's hottest team Tuesday night. - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News

Joffrey Lupul also scored for the Flyers, and Gagne had two assists to go with his goal. Gagne was not on the ice for the Flyers' last power play, but the club said he was having his neck massaged and was not injured. - Sam Carchidi, Philadelphia Inquirer