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Game 79: Avalanche 5, Oilers 4 (SO)

photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP

One day, Joe Sakic is going to retire from professional hockey, and for Avalanche fans and team members, that's going to be a tough day.  The ageless wonder proved his overwhelming value to the franchise once again with a ridiculously clutch goal with 5.9 seconds left in the game to send the Avalanche to overtime with the Edmonton Oilers.

The Avs would eventually go 3-for-3 on the shootout and grab the full two points for one of the biggest wins of the season, beating the Oilers 5-4.

The win moves the Avs into a tie with Calgary in points, and seventh place overall in the Western Conference.  If the Avs can stay there, their first round opponent will likely be the San Jose Sharks instead of the Detroit Red Wings.  But, Colorado hasn't clinched a spot yet, because Nashville (newly eighth place) and Vancouver (now in ninth), can still mathematically surpass the Avs and kick them out.  As long as the Avs win at least one more game, and Vancouver loses one, the Avs are in the playoffs.  

I guess the game between Colorado and Vancouver on April 1st will be as good a time as any to clinch a spot and get ready for the post-season.

Even if I'm still not sure that's really a good thing for the franchise in the long run.  But screw it.  Since this season has driven us all crazy anyway, we might as well root for another Cup!

Now, as for the game last night, talk about a roller coaster.  The first half of the first period belonged to the Avs, with goals by Andrew Brunette and Milan "I'm Back Baby" Hejduk.  Paul Stastny's assist on the latter was his twelfth point in his last eight games.  Unfortunately, the second half of the first period was all Oilers, with two goals of their own by Tom Gilbert and Jarret Stoll.

The second period had heartbreak written all over it, when the Oilers took the lead 7:54 with a goal by Curtis Glencross.  Brunette would answer with his second goal of the night about four minutes later, but super rookie Sam Gagner was having none of that and scored his thirteenth of the season with just three minutes left.

Interesting side note: all four Oilers who scored---Stoll, Gilbert, Gagner and Glencross---scored their thirteenth goals of the season.  That had to be some kind of bad omen for Edmonton.

Even though Jose Theodore went into full Pimp Cane mode in the third period, stopping all seven shots he faced, the Avs almost didn't survive.  It wasn't until the 19:54 mark, with just 5.9 seconds left to play, that Super Joe Sakic buried a sweet from-behind-the-net pass from Peter Forsberg to tie it up and force overtime.  The Can pretty much exploded.  

Overtime might as well not have happened and the game went to a shootout.

Theodore only had to stop one goal (which he did), because Wojtek Wolski, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk each scored in the shootout against a heartbroken Dwayne Roloson to win the game for Colorado and move the Avs into excellent playoff positioning.  Three straight wins makes it all the more likely that the Avs won't be eliminated this season.

ADDENDUM: Jose Theodore made one of the best stops in the entire league this season, stopping Dustin Penner with an amazing diving glove save in the first period.

The next game is against Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.  Big game?  Bigger than big.

Stars of the Game:

  1. Joe Sakic (1g, 1a)
  1. Andrew Brunette (2g, 1a)
  1. Peter Forsberg (0g, 3a)

Kittens Killed: