photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP
What a day. The Avalanche beat the Oilers 5-1 and every other team in the Northwest Division lost, with only Minnesota losing in overtime. The Avs now occupy first place with a two-point cushion and only ten games left to play. As a bonus, Colorado's two power play goals lifted their overall percentage to 13.8, just above St. Louis and no longer the worst in the NHL. Also worth noting, so far in the final 19 games of this season, Colorado is 8-1-0. A 7-1-2 finish will tie last year's amazing streak, only this time it will guarantee a playoff spot, if not the Northwest Division title outright.
The game last night started slowly, but Jeff Finger lit the scoreboard first with help from Jaroslav Hlinka and Paul Stastny. The Avs went into the second period with a slim, one-goal lead, but the floodgates were opened and it was all over for the Oil. Four goals, scored by Hlinka (unassisted off a gorgeous steal), Tyler "I only try in eight games a year" Arnason, Wojtek Wolski and rookie David Jones, sealed the deal. The Oilers managed one goal of their own, but had nothing else to show for themselves the rest of the night.
The Avalanche defense was solid again, including some help from forwards like Ben Guite and Ian Laperriere, as usual. Lappy and Guite had great nights, and seemed like they played the entire third period as the Avs ran out the clock. Coach Q was so set on sitting back that he apparently gave the the bench the rest of the night off. Paul Stastny, Brunette and Arnason, to name just three, played only around 15 minutes total. Wolski had just over 10 minutes. Very interesting is the fact that Hlinka, the whipping boy for the past couple of weeks, played 17 minutes.
Peter Budaj had a superb game in net, and continues his outrageous dominance of Edmonton. 23 saves on 24 shots, and made every one look easy. He also gave Jose Theodore a needed rest.
The Avs next play the New Jersey Devils on Saturday in Denver. Beating the Devils will provide more evidence that Colorado is a viable playoff threat. Hopefully Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote and Ryan Smyth will all be recovered and ready to go by then.
Stars of the Game:
- Jaroslav Hlinka (1g, 1a)
- Tyler Arnason (1g, 1a)
- David Jones (1g, 0a)