The anticipation for this game couldn't have been higher for the San Jose Sharks. After totally and completely dominating our beloved Avalanche in game 3 on Sunday night, to say that they were eager to get back on the ice and erase the sour taste of Sunday would be the understatement of the year.
The Avs did not get off to the start that they wanted as Paul Stastny was whistled for high sticking just a measly 2 seconds into the game. Almost as if the hockey gods are playing around with these two teams, Dan Boyle put just about every fiber of his being into the shot that eluded Craig Anderson. It was also the first shot taken in the game. 1-0 Sharks just 1:12 into the game.
As the first period progressed the hitting and intensity picked up. You don't have to be Brian Engblom to call that one. Marek Svatos seemed to me like he had a lot of jump as the period progressed. Could be the fact that I was at work for almost 12 hours today. I digress.
During the last 5 minutes of the period, the Avs were starting to pick up some pressure and really cycle the puck in the zone. Then, Adam Foote felt like he needed to help Matt Duchene get some room to get the puck out from behind the Sharks net. What an absolutely needless penalty. As it happened, I was thinking that the needless penalties that this team takes is going to be their undoing. Thankfully though, the Avs were able to kill the penalty off. Of note, the power play chances are 17-8 in favor of the Sharks through 3 games and 1 period.
As the second period was getting underway, I thought to myself that there is only 2 ways that the rest of this game was going to go. First, the Avs were going to continue to let the Sharks have their way with them and dominate play and hope that Craig Anderson was going to be there to bail them out. Again. Second, they were going to come out of the locker room after Joe Sacco "calmly" talked to them during the intermission and bring the play to the Sharks. And by calmly I mean that the Pepsi Center maintenance team is going to need to go into the Avs locker room to repaint some of the walls.
I sure am glad that the Avs chose the second option. They came out and really forced the play in the San Jose zone. What happens when you do that? You give the refs no other option but to disobey their orders from Gary Bettman and call a penalty on the Sharks. Wouldn't you know it, the Avs scored a power play goal to tie the game. The most overpaid player in the NHL in Paul Stastny, tipped the John-Michael Liles low wrist shot past Evgeni Nabokov to tie the game just over 3 minutes into the 2nd period. Game tied 1-1.
The Avs continued to apply the pressure throughout much of the second period. At times, the Sharks seemed like they had no answer. Then they remembered they were the Sharks and started to try and goon it up a bit. Thankfully though, the Avs responded to that with more hard, legal hits. They continued to make the Sharks pay a price to go into the corner and fight for the loose pucks.
As the second period came to a close, there was a pretty good collision between Stephane Yelle and a Sharks player. This appeared to set the tone for the third period. It let the Sharks know that no matter how hard they play the Avs, the Avs are going to give it right back to them and there is going to be no easy way past the Avs.
As the third period begin, I was feeling a little optimistic that this team was going to be able to carry their play from the second period of this game into the "second second" period. I was right for being optimistic. They continued to force the play along the boards and make the Sharks work for every single inch of ice in all zones of the ice.
I mentioned this in the game day thread, but it is definitely worth mentioning again. This is the best "team" game that I have seen the Avalanche play in a really long time. Every single player on the team, every single shift is leaving absolutely everything on the ice. Two players that stood out to me in the third period were Johnny Hot Pocket and Matt Hendricks. I really don't think that there is a harder working player on this team than Matt Hendricks. After every shift he goes to the bench having left it all on the ice.
The other big story of the third period was the breaking up of the "ghost" line of Thonton-Marleau-Heatley. They continued to be ineffective against the defensive style of the Avs. Whether this was strictly due to the play of Anderson or a collective effort from the whole team, there is no denying that they are not getting the job done right now.
There were several close calls as the the third period was drawing to a close. Brandon Yip played almost 18 minutes in regulation. For a rookie, that is pretty much unheard of. As a whole, this team's Young Guns are playing like they are seasoned veterans. This game, like 2 of the 3 previous games, this one was headed to overtime.
To say that I was nervous as the overtime period started would not even come close to describing how I was feeling. Thankfully though Andy was able to make a few saves early to get himself into the game. After that though, the game definitely even itself out. Although the Avs were able to mount a more threatening attack as the overtime period wore on. Then...
On a somewhat seemingly innocent looking play, Joe Pavelski lets a hard wrist shot go from just inside the hash marks and beats Craig Anderson top shelf to send the series back to San Jose tied 2 games apiece.
Derek's Three Stars of the Game:
3rd Star: Craig Anderson (43 saves)
2nd Star: Ryane Clowe (2A)
1st Star: Joe Pavelski (GWG, 1A)
DDC's Take: A win would have been terrific, but it’s tough for me to get to disappointed in the game. Except for a rough patch to start the game, the Avalanche showed that they belong in the playoffs and that they are very capable of beating the Sharks. This series is still up for grabs. And what a great series it’s been - 3 OT games (nearly 4) – and neither team has had a 2-goal lead yet. I can’t wait until Thursday.
Mr. Coffey's Take: Even though the Avs lost this game, I doubt there are many (if any) detractors left that could honestly argue the Avs can't win this series. I think this loss actually illustrates that fact more than any of the previous games. What a great series - it doesn't feel like a first round first and eight seed match up at all.