The Avalanche found a way to shake off the stifling pressure of trying to hold a lead tonight. It was a brilliantly simple solution: don't have a lead. They led for just 58 seconds in the game, but it was the right 58 seconds. With Calgary and Nashville both winning tonight, Colorado needed two points to maintain their tenuous hold on 3rd place. They got it. It was close, but they got it.
The first period was more or less even tonight, but Columbus got on the board first when Kristan Huselius scored with the BJs on a 5 on 3. The Avalanche had an opportunity to tie it later in the period when they got a 5 on 3 of their own, but we're slightly less successful. And by that I mean they may just have had the most atrocious looking power play in the history of hockey. There was icing and turnovers and zero shots and lots of head-shaking from me. It was a complete failure.
On the night, the Avalanche managed just 4 shots on the power play, despite having 5 opportunities and almost 7 minutes of power play time. Thankfully, one of those shots came from the stick of Kyle Cumiskey (*beep* *beep*) who rifled a point shot past Steve Mason just 12 seconds into a power play early in the 2nd period. Other than that big goal - tying the game at one - the man advantage was a huge dud on the evening, even with the return of John-Michael Liles to the linuep.
With the game tied, the 2nd period turned into a chippy affair with a LOT of offense. The two teams combined for 6 penalties and 28 shots. There was also some excellent goaltending though, and only two goals were scored, Cumiskey's and Derek Brassard's to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead again, which is how the 2nd period ended (Wojtek Wolski almost tied it, hitting the post with just a few seconds left in the 2nd).
Were the Avalanche leading at this point, it would have been time to get nervous. Since they were down going into the 3rd, there was no meltdown. Colorado outshot Columbus 14-7 in the final frame and tied the game 5 minutes in when Paul Stastny found Chris Stewart with a slick cross-ice pass and Stewart fired a difficult shot (the puck was close to his skates) past a diving Mason to tie it. Seriously, is there any Avalanche player that Stastny has not had excellent chemistry yet? Just this year we've seen him have success with Wojtek Wolski, David Jones, Milan Hejduk and now Chris Stewart. I'm pretty sure we could throw David Koci up there and he'd become a 40-goal scorer overnight.
Despite a solid effort, it looked like the game was headed to overtime. That was until Ryan O'Reilly got called for hooking with just under 4 minutes left and that little lump started swelling up in the back of my throat. The Avs needed to keep one of the most effective power play's in the NHL in check, and they needed to do it with one of their best killers (O'Reilly) in the box. Thanks to a couple of big saves by Craig Anderson, the Avalanche killed it off and then surprised the hell out of the Blue Jackets by not coasting into OT. With 58 seconds left, Milan Hejduk made a slick move inside the blueline and fired a shot on net and then TJ Galiardi beat 4 Blue Jackets to the loose puck and buried it. It was a huge play for Galiardi, who moved into 10th in rookie scoring with that goal, tied with Evander Kane.
It was a big win for the Avs, although they can still drop to 6th place on Tuesday when Calgary and Nashville play each other. If Calgary gets a point, the Avalanche drop to 5th place (behind Calgary and Phoenix). If Nashville and Calgary go into OT, the Avalanche will fall to 6th regardless of which team ends up winning. It seems a little early in the season to be thinking about tie-breakers, but that's the state of the Western Conference this year. The Avalanche need to keep winning. To that end, I suggest avoiding leads and power plays as much as possible.