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WCQ Game 3: Wild 3, Avalanche 2 (OT)

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photos courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP

Another first period goal for the Avalanche.  Another stellar first two periods.  Another blown lead in the third period.  Another overtime.  Another loss.

The Colorado Avalanche have apparently found a formula they're very comfortable with, as the exact same scenario played out for the third time in a row last night against the Minnesota Wild.  Unfortunately, the result wasn't victory like in game 1, it was defeat like in game 2.

The Avs got off to a good start when Andrew Brunette potted a goal from the slot off a rebound from a Joe Sakic Wrist Shot™.  But the real key to the play was the superb puck handling and passing of Wojtek "Can You Bench Me Now" Wolski.  He skated into the zone, faked out a defender, stopped in his tracks and fed the puck directly to Sakic for a great wrister.

The Avs enjoyed that 1-0 lead for two full periods, as Jose Theodore was in full Pimp Cane mode for 40 great minutes.  During that time he made 23 saves.  

And then, right on schedule, the team fell apart in the third period.  The Wild managed only four shots, but scored on two, with goals by Mikko Koivu and Brian Rolston.  The worst part about Rolston's goal was that it was shorthanded, and off an superb pass from Todd Fedoruk.  Ouch.

I'd say Foppa summed it up well:

"I think we sat back a little too much in the third period," Avs winger Peter Forsberg said. "We were a little tentative."

How many times have we seen that this season?  The Avs sitting back on a too-small lead.  They could write the book on that "strategy."

All seemed lost until Super Joe scored to tie it up around the 15 minute mark, with assists from Peter Forsberg and Andrew Brunette (who was killer all night).  The game, as usual, went to overtime.

Both teams were feisty in OT, with Minnesota registering twelve shots on goal and Colorado seven.  But while Theodore did his best to stop the onslaught, he couldn't prevent Pierre-Marc Bouchard's streaking game-winner at 11:58.  And the Wild now lead the series 2-1.

The main reason this game was lost?  The atrocious-as-always Avalanche power play.  "Horrendous" and "embarrassing" don't even come close to describing the special teams failure Colorado has suffered all season.  Six chances, including a brief 5-on-3, and the only thing the Avs had to show for them was a shorthanded goal-against.  

It's a shame his team hasn't supported him with timely PP goals, because Jose Theodore has been playing amazingly in net.  36 saves on 39 shots, with a save percentage of .923 is great goaltending no matter how you slice it.  One of his best saves came in overtime when he slid from post to post to stop what looked to be a sure Minnesota one-timer goal.  Theo was cool and calm all night, and smothered his rebounds with little effort.  

While Sakic, Brunette and Theodore were the bright lights for the Avs, the goats were Paul Stastny and Tyler Arnason.  A turnover by Stastny in the third period ended in a Minnesota goal, and he was generally out of place and ineffective the entire game.  He finished - 2.  Arnason was junk as always, failing to control the puck in the Wild zone, taking weak and off-target shots, and more or less crippling his linemates Ryan Smyth and David Jones.  If I had Coach Q's ear, you know I'd be calling for Arnason to sit and Jaroslav Hlinka to play.  Arnason has become more a liability than an asset.

So the power play still sucks, and the Avs are still giving up leads in the third period.  And their offense is weak in general.  And they're letting down a goalie who deserves to win this series.  In game 4, tonight, Paul Stastny must redeem himself, and the rest of the team needs to play like they actually want to win this series and advance.  It can't be over yet.

ADDENDUM: If you haven't already, please read Drafty's superb game recap.  It's truly epic.

Stars of the Game:

  1. The Wild

Kittens Killed: