I have been waiting for a game like this. The Avalanche didn't play down to their opponent and they never sat on their lead. They played hard every shift and were rewarded with their most convincing win of the season. The Avs have their first four game winning streak since October and are firmly back in control of the Northwest (Calgary continued their slide tonight by getting absolutely destroyed by San Jose).
The first period took a while to get going. Ryan Wilson got hit by Jean-Francois Jacques and went face first into the boards. Wilson didn't return but I'm not sure how serious the injury is. Shortly there after, Zach Stortini and Cody McLeod fought the good fight in a fairly even matchup. The Avs seemed to get the boost though as John-Michael Liles busted into the zone a minute later and put a shot on net. Matt Duchene got the rebound in front and shrugged off a defender to poke it through Jeff Deslauriers legs and Liles swooped in for the easy tap in. The Avs kept the pressure on and, this is the first time I've seen this, two Oilers were called for minor obstruction penalties on the same play, giving the Avalanche a two minute 5 on 3. On the pp, Wojtek Wolski got it on net and Duchene, showing some quick hands, slammed in the rebound.
The second continued the same way with Chris Stewart tipping in a Kyle Quincey slapper for his 16th of the season. Late in the period Kyle Cumiskey showed off his great speed by flying through the neutrel zone to pick up a loose puck and creating a 2 on 1 with Paul Statsny. Statsny and Cumiskey worked a perfect give and go to finish off one of the prettiest plays of the season.
The Avs took a penalty early in the third but the Oilers negated it by taking two quick ones of their own to give the Avs a 4 on 3. Cumiskey got his 2nd of the night with a nice shot from the high slot. Then Duchene, who seems to get better and better every night, crashed the net with Brandon Yip and got his 2nd of the night. Anderson stopped 24 relatively weak shots to gather his 4th shutout and 24th win. The top six were dynamite for the Avs tonight with every one of them getting at least one point. Wolski, Statsny and Stewart have proved that they are as good as any line in this league. The second line of Yip, T.J. Galiardi and Duchene is ridiculous. Three rookies centered by a kid who just turned 19 and they were the best line on the ice tonight. The defense was even better, factoring in on 5 of tonight's 6 goals. And there were only 5 of them through most of the game.
Dustin's Three Stars
3rd Star - Kyle Cumiskey - first two goal game of his career. His first one was a thing of beauty.
2nd Star - John-Michael Liles - a goal and two assists (was three but Galiardi got credit for one of them). Liles has been feeling the heat from Joe Sacco and tonight he made a big statement. I hope he keeps it up as Liles was always one of my favorites.
1st Star - Matt Duchene - two goals and an assist. Duchene never seems to stop playing. He has grown a lot over the season and his line was dominant tonight. I can't say enough good things about this kid.
Instead of a minus of the night (the entire Oilers team was horrible) I'm gonna toss out some honorable mentions. Wojtek Wolski continued his breakout season with 3 assists. T.J. Galiardi and Brandon Yip were both outstanding on the forecheck. Chris Stewart picked up another 2 points. His value to this team is immeasurable. A big, fast player who can score goals and win fights? Yeah, they're not too easy to find. Craig Anderson didn't have to make too many big stops but he was there when we needed him. San Jose kicked the crap out of Calgary tonight, beating them 9 to 1, which is too awesome for words. What a great night for hockey.