The Avalanche and a two-goal lead walk into a bar and...hey, wait a minute. They changed the joke? They held a lead? Really?
In his first 27 NHL games, Steven Stamkos had 11 points and was a -11. While it took the first overall pick a while to get rolling, he would finish strong with 19 points in his final 20 games. Matt Duchene has had a similar slow start to his first NHL season. Although he's had some great flashes, he only had 12 points in his first 27 to show for it and he was a -10.
That's been changing, though. Duchene scored two tonight, the second a highlight-reel deflection out of the air that the Lightning broadcast showed, I kid you not, about 15 times. While we've been lamenting the loss of guys like David Jones and the play of guys like Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski lately, I think we've given short shrift to the sudden maturation of #9. Duchene had zero points in his first 7 games in November, but he finished up with 7 in his final 7 games. He's looking more and more like a superstar every night. Now he just needs a nickname. Duchene's two goals were all the scoring the Avalanche would need (Wojtek Wolski added an empty net goal) as Craig Anderson and the Avalanche defense held a potent Tampa Bay offense off the scoresheet.
It wasn't perfect. The Lightning were given 7 powerplays (including one from yet another bench minor penalty), although an effective Avalanche penalty kill kept the Lightning from cashing in. And, yet again, the Avalanche played prevent D in the 3rd period and were outshot 16-6. But a big save by Anderson and another save by the post kept the Avalanche up and ruined my Avalanche-and-a-bar joke.
By the way, if you watched the Altitude feed then you missed my new favorite play-by-play guy in Tampa's Rick Packham. Man, he had an excellent voice and called a GREAT game - mostly neutral, didn't just call the names of the Lightning players on the pbp, didn't start dropping anecdotes every few minutes. Crisp, clean, professional. And I still think he sounds like Sean McDonough. You also missed an excellent intermission interview of Matt Duchene in which he revealed that he talked to the refs at the end of the 2nd period to make sure that Stastny got an assist for his 2nd goal. Great kid.
Also, in searching for something else, I discovered that the Avs played in Tampa two years ago and won 3-0 (with an empty net goal). They allowed 22 3rd period shots in that one (Theodore got the shutout).