It wasn't quite the outcome we were looking for. Then again, it could have been much worse. The Avs came out flat against the Minnesota Wild. How flat? By the 9 minute mark the Avalanche had 4 minor penalties (including a bench minor for Joel Quenneville's abuse of the officials) and we're in the hole 2-0. It seemed clear that the Forsberg-less Avalanche had decided to mail this one in and I was starting to wonder if maybe my time might be better served with that new game I'd just picked up (BioShock, for the curious).
And then a funny thing happened: the Avs came back. After killing of the Quenneville penalty, the team seemed to gather momentum. Jeff Finger cut the lead to 2-1 at the 1:21 mark of the 2nd period when Joe Sakic found him cutting to the net all alone. The Sakic pass was gorgeous, but the play was set up by Wojtek Wolski who carried the puck in well ahead of his linemates and then worked hard to keep control of the puck until help arrived. The Avalanche continued to apply solid pressure, and eventually tied the game when Ruslan Salei's dinky point shot was deflected past Nick Backstrom just 3 seconds after an Avalanche powerplay had ended.
If you didn't see the game, you'd look at the scoresheet and see 5 shots taken by the two teams and assume that both teams locked it down in the 3rd to play for OT. That's not entirely accurate. Both teams had plenty of scoring chances. The Wild banged two blistering shots off the posts behind Jose Theodore, and the Avalanche had so many near-chances to the left of Backstrom that I drove my wife insane will all the "damns" I was shouting towards the TV. Really, either team could have won this game in regulation; it was the kind of game were really both teams earned the one point.
Unfortunately, the Wild earned the extra point. They scored on a turnover, but you can't really fault anyone for the play. Scott Hannan was pinching in to lend support to a teammate along the boards. The puck bounced to him, but unfortunately hit his skate and came out behind him and right to the one guy you don't want to have on a odd-man rush - Marian Gaborik. He and Pavol Demitra had a 2 on 1 against Jeff Finger. Finger defended well, but Gaborik made a good pass to Demitra and Demitra made a highlight reel play to push the too-deep puck back to Gaborik for the easy goal. It was a tough break, but, frankly at this point in the season I'd rather lose to a tough break to a lack of effort. I'm pleased that the Avalanche were able to crawl into it.
Obviously, this game had a lot of impact on the Avalanche playoff run. I'm going to update all of that in a separate post later this morning.
Forsberg didn't play. Jaroslav Hlinka took his place with Stastny and Hejduk while the rest of the lines stayed intact (although they went through a bit of the Q-blender in the 2nd).
- With his game-winning goal, Marion Gaborik set a Wild record for single-season points (80). He broke the high previously set by Brian Rolston (79). The previous high before Rolston? Andrew Brunette (69).
- The Avs were not very good in the circle (45%), but Tyler Arnason continued his recent dominance with a 67% effort. And yes, I'm aware that the words "Arnason" and "effort" do not often appear in the same sentence without the addition of "lack of".
- David Jones led all players with 5 shots.
Two games left. The Avs visit Vancouver on Tuesday and then host the Wild next Sunday.