My motto's always been; when it's right, it's right.
Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night.
When everything's a little clearer in the light of day.
And you know the night is always gonna be there any way.
-The Starland Vocal Band, Afternoon Delight
Unless you are a fan of the Wild or an NHL linesman, this one wasn't much of an afternoon delight. The game was kind of a sloggy, stop-and-go affair with a ton of stoppages. There were 70 faceoffs - 18 more than were in the Avs OT game against Nashville on Wednesday. I'm sure the Wild will take it, however.
The Avalanche jumped on the board first. Matt Duchene was relegated to the 4th line today, but was a factor early. On just his 2nd shift, he moved the puck off the right wing boards. As his winger, Chris Stewart, drew the attention of a couple of Wild players, Duchene smartly dished it back to a wide open Kyle Quincey. Quincey hesitated a second before burying it past Nik Backstrom.
Minnesota tied it up about 4 minutes later when Owen Nolan was the first to a rebound in front of the net. It figures; he always seems to score against the Avs.
In the 2nd, Chuck Kobasew and his porn mustache (the Wild are growing mustaches for charity) made the game 2-1. Kobasew and Kyle Quincey collided in the corner. Quincey got to his feet, but let Kobasew go to pressure Derek Boogaard with the puck in the corner. Bad idea; Boogaard dished the puck to a now wide open Kobasew for an easy goal.
Both teams then traded quick PP goals, with Paul Stastny and Kobasew scoring goals with the man advantage. The Avalanche tied it late in the 2nd when Wojtek Wolski and Chris Stewart got a breakout when Shane Hnidy misplayed the puck and turned it over after a faceoff. Wolski streaked down the ice and made a tremendous pass to Stewart who slammed home his 2nd goal of the year.
While it was great that the Avalanche could tie the game, they had to have been kicking themselves a bit as both Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny had a beautiful scoring chance ring off the post and then TJ Galiardi's swat at a loose puck in the crease ended up knocking the puck out of the net instead of in. If any of those chances go in, the Avs are up 4-3 after two and have a chance at at least grabbing a point.
Instead, the teams were knotted up going into the 3rd and only one team seemed interested in changing that. Hint: it wasn't Colorado. The Avs were woefully outplayed in the first half of the 3rd with Minnesota getting several extended shifts in the offensive zone. Somehow, the Avalanche held on and had a chance to break the tie 8 minutes in when Marek Zidlicky went to the box for tripping. This being the Avalanche powerplay, the crucial opportunity was squandered. And, less than 20 seconds after the Wild killed it off, Darcy Tucker used up the last of the goodwill he had stored up in September by taking a slashing penalty. I was kind of unsure how to proceed there for a while when Tucker was actually playing well, but now that he's back to playing bad hockey I no longer feel conflicted as a fan. Anyway...shockingly, Minnesota scored on their powerplay when Mikko Koivu created a goal by coming out from behind the net with the puck (something he's done about 16,000 times against the Avs) before dishing to Andrew Brunette on the backside.
That was the winner. The Avalanche woke up late and had some sustained pressure with Craig Anderson off for an extra attacker, but they just couldn't get it past Backstrom. Eventually, the dam broke, Koivu got a breakaway and selflessly waited for Kobasew to get open so that he could collect the hat trick (I think they should have waved that one off - he was clearly in the crease!). The Wild aren't the greatest team in the NHL right now, but for the 2nd time this year they've shown the Avs that you can't take any NHL team for granted. The Avs have mailed in two opportunities against the Wild, and they have two losses to show for it. Let's hope they come out with a little more effort and consistency tomorrow.
The lines were completely changed around tonight (and bore no resemblance to what Altitude listed on their ticker at the start of the game). Matt Duchene started on the 4th line, but he and linemate Chris Stewart had solid games and played their way into good ice time. Wojtek Wolski and Cody McLeod played the early part of the game together, but seemed to switch sides frequently, something Sacco's done off and on all year. Milan Hejduk did not play in the 3rd period after suffering some sort of knee injury.
- Hejduk - Stastny - Jones
- Wolski - O'Reilly - McLeod
- Tucker - Galiardi - Svatos
- Koci - Duchene - Stewart
- Hannan - Quincey
- Wilson - Liles
- Clark - Preissing
- Thanks in part to substantial PP time, Chris Stewart had 16:21 of ice time, the most minutes he's had since the 2nd game of the year
- Paul Stastny took 32 of the teams 70 faceoffs today.
- Tom Preissing had no PP ice time at all, and has had just a smattering of PP shifts after his debut in the 8-2 Vancouver debacle. With our PP struggling, would it be such a terrible idea to give him a shot?
The Avalanche host the Wild tomorrow night, in Denver.