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Game 48 Recap: Avalanche 3, Devils 1

Final - 1.16.2010 1 2 3 Total
New Jersey Devils 0 0 1 1
Colorado Avalanche 2 0 1 3

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Three is a magic number,
Yes it is, it's a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.

- Schoolhouse Rock

Tonight's game is brought to you by the number 3. I'm pretty sure I've used that line once before here, but it works so I'm using it again.

For the 3rd straight game, the Avalanche were up against a tough foe. And for the 3rd straight game, the "underdog" Avs came out on top. Underdog needs to go in quotes now, though, because at 27-15-6, the Avalanche have one of the best records in the NHL. They lead the Northwest Division and, for a change, won't need to root for another team to lose tonight. No matter what happens with Vancouver tonight and Calgary tomorrow, the Avalanche will be in 3rd place in the Western Conference on Monday morning. The Avalanche are not underdogs. They are front runners. Teams taking the Avs for granted now do so at their own risk.

Tonight was a prototypical start for the Avs. They came out skating hard and all the early pressure was by the boys in baby blue. The Devils didn't seem prepared for this early onslaught at all (how could that be?) and just over 3 minutes in, Colin White was served up a heaping serving of Chris Stew. Stewart pushed the White and his 215-pound frame like he was made of paper mache, leaving #25 all alone in the crease to receive Paul Stastny's pass. Stewart buried it. Avs 1, Devils 0.

Late in the period, Rob Niedermayer took a questionable interference call to negate a Devils' power play. On the play, it looked like Craig Anderson skated out of the crease to make sure Niedermayer made contact. Questionable call or not, with the PP over, TJ Galiardi scored a short while later to give the Avs a 2-0 lead.

The game slowed down a bit in the 2nd period. Early on, Ryan Wilson leveled Patrick Elias with a clean hit in front of the Devil's boards. Elias lay prone on the ice for some time and was ultimately carried off on a stretcher. Elias was moving his arms on the way off the ice, so hopefully he's going to be okay. That play seemed to slow things down a bit for both teams. There were a couple of fights - Wilson answered the bell with a solid fight against Mark Fraser and then Matt Hendricks took on Rod Pelley. With David Koci tearing it up with Andrew Peters earlier (literally, he ripped up the dude's jersey), the Avalanche had 3 fights for the 2nd straight game. Interestingly, 5 different players were involved in those 6 scraps. All of a sudden, this team seems far more willing to drop the gloves, and I think that it gives the Avalanche a much-needed edge.

The Avalanche entered the 3rd period with that 2-0 lead intact, and you know what happens next. The Avalanche came out flatter than a French crepe. New Jersey had all the early momentum and needed just 1:55 to capitalize when Niedermayer caught Anderson sliding across the crease and snuck it through his pads to make it 2-1. Instead of being an "uh-oh" moment, the early goal may have helped wake up the Avs. After that point, the Avs played much better than their usual effort with the lead. That's not to say they were perfect - New Jersey outshot Colorado 15-5 in the 3rd frame - but the Avalanche had much more offensive pressure than they normally exhibit.

Oh, and they had an awesome goalie between the pipes. One game after outplaying Mikka Kiprusoff to lead the Avs to a win against Calgary, Andy was on top of his game this afternoon. He was at his best in the 3rd period and was the main reason the Devils did not manage to tie the game.

Anderson and the Avalanche had to kill of a late high sticking penalty by Cody McLeod to seal the win. Finally, with time running out, Stewart and Wolski broke towards the Devils' empty net. Stewart could have scored easily, but instead selflessly passed it to give Wolski his first goal in 11 games. Of all the great youngsters on this team, Stewart may be my favorite.

With that final goal, the Avalanche won the game 3-1, curiously matching the score of Game 7 of the 2001 Finals. More importantly, it gave the Avs their first 3-game winning streak since October. With just 3 road games until the Olympic Break and 8 of the next 13 games against teams currently outside of the playoff race, this is THE time for the Avalanche to put a winning streak together. 3 wins is a great way to start.