The Avalanche's three game win streak came to a halt tonight when the Calgary Flames came into Denver and beat the Avalanche for the first time this season, by a final score of 3-2.
The loss leaves the Avalanche in 5th place in the West, 5 points behind 4th place Phoenix and home ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and just 1 point ahead of Los Angeles who holds two games in hand on Colorado. Calgary still sits out of the playoffs in 9th place behind Detroit.
This was a HUGE game for the Flames as they fight to stay alive in the heated Western Conference playoff race. It was also a huge game for the Avs, but what can you do? The two teams will face each other one more time this season.
In the first period, the Avs received an early power play and decided to make some awful decisions. First, the 1st PP unit skated off the ice as the puck went deep into the Avalanche zone. The Flames eagerly hopped on the lonely puck and threw it in front of the net, creating a strange bounce that Anderson had to pounce on. The 2nd PP unit faired even worse was even stupider, as Kyle Quincey failed to keep the puck in the zone and the Avs graciously coughed it up to Rene Bourque who flew down the ice and beat Anderson with a quick wrist shot, for his 4th shorthanded goal of the season, on a wide open breakaway.
After that the game opened up for a bit with Duchene weaving his way through everybody and creating some breathtaking chances, before Nystrom scored the Flames 2nd goal (on only their third shot) on the heels of some good hard work down low by the Flames -- where was the Avs coverage on that one??
With about 6 minutes left in the first period, Durno took another one of his dumb offensive zone penalties (good tough effort, but caveman dumb). The Avs responded with a decent, focused penalty kill. And Durno himself bounced back well, but we'll get to that later.
Ryan Wilson and Jamaal Mayers dropped the gloves for a good bout at the 3:23 mark (probably in retaliation to Wilson's BIG hit earlier in the period). Wilson landed some hard punches at the start of the fight, but then Mayers came back with a big bomb that ended the fun. Bad news for the Avs, Wilson did not return after that hard punch. Hopefully it was just a precautionary measure and not concussion related. The period ends 2-0 Flames.
To start the 2nd, the Avs continued to look like a team in the second game of back-to-backs as the Flames carried the play. Anderson was forced to make a good stop on Nystrom on a breakaway to keep it a 2 goal game. The Flames attempted a lot of long passes in this game, no doubt trying to take advantage of the Avs' fatigue. Stastny took a hooking penalty which resulted in the Flames breaking their 0-14 power play slump when Bourque buried a rebound at the side of the net for his second of the night (the eventual game winner) and a 3-0 lead. He was the best forward for either team in the game.
The Avs' third line of O'Reilly, Porter and Svatos threw down a fantastic shift started by Svatos (yes, him) hustling down the ice to negate an icing call. The Avs sustained pressure in the flames zone for a full minute-and-a-half and even got a full line change, but nothing on the score board.
Cumiskey had the best save of the game (to that point) at around the mid point when he got a stick on Bourque's shot from the slot on a vacated net, stopping the hat trick. Thanks RoadRunner. Calgary back up Vesa Toskala had the best save in the game on a Chris Durno breakaway, but Durno would not be denied and scored his 4th of the season on a scramble in front of the net shortly thereafter. The goal was reviewed for a long time, but it was clearly a good goal. Well done Caveman.
Galiardi got called for an "Alex Ovechkin" penalty a little later, but the Avs shut the Flames down on the ensuing power play. Second period ends 3-1 Calgary.
The Avs gave it all the had in the third but just couldn't beat Toskala....until, with Anderson on the bench, Hejduk scored his 20th of the season from right in front after an Avalanche timeout. With just under 30 seconds left, the Avs had a flurry in the Flames' zone, but just couldn't muster that last goal to tie it up, and so the game ends like all other games this season between the Avs and Flames, 3-2, but this time with the Flames coming out on top. Credit the Flames who came out hard in the first and took the play to the Avs who they knew might be a little fatigued from playing the night before and traveling.
The Avs' third line played very well tonight. Kyle (Kevin) Porter had a good game. He played with speed and appears to be gaining confidence with and without the puck. Svatos also played very well, took the puck strong to the net, and even threw in a nice solid hit for good measure. I dare say he was the Avs best forward of the game (I know I take my very life into mine own hands by uttering those words).
Official 3 stars as selected by NHL.com: