The Colorado Avalanche have had trouble scoring lately, especially on home ice. Only 4 forwards have more than one goal at the Pepsi Center this year. Three of those players - Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Milan Hejdyuk - were thrown together on one mostly ineffective line tonight. Turns out, the Avs were able to go to a different well for a change with 3 goals by defensemen - Shane O'Brien, Jan Hejda and, in his first NHL game, Stefan Elliott.
The first period had a lot of shots (25 total) but not a lot of sustained action. The two goals that were scored were of the quirky variety. Edmonton opened up the scoring first. Shane O'Brien's bad pass out of the zone was picked off by Sam Gagner. Gagner drove hard and wide of the net and Semyon Varlamov got caught following a little to far out of the net. He got tangled up first with Ryan Jones and then O'Brien and couldn't get back into his crease before Gagner gave Ladislav Smid the puck with a wide open net to shoot at.
That could have been a devastating goal to the psyche of the young Avs, but they got it back fairly quickly. Ryan Wilson laid a monster hit on Taylor Hall in the corner. Hall appeared to try to use his left arm to cushion the blow against the glass and came up hurt. Meanwhile, Matt Duchene started the play up the other way quickly and the Oilers got caught in a bad change (and Theo Peckham was busy trying to goad Wilson into a fight). Chuck Kobasew and Jay McClement ended up with a two on one. Kobasew was stoned on his bid for career goal #100 but McClement was there to bang home the rebound.
Not much else happened of note. Hall did come back, but after taking what appeared to be a relatively mild - easy for me to say - cross check to that same arm by Quincy, he was done for the night.
EDM 1 goal, 14 shots COL 1 goal, 11 shots
Edmonton made it 2-1 early in the second when Jan Hejda failed to keep the puck in at the left point. Sam Gagner made a good play along the boards and the Oilers got a quick 3 on 2 break leading to a goal by Jones (arguably the best Oiler player tonight).
Each team had a PP but didn't convert. Oh, and Ryan Smyth tried that no-look shot he scored a goal on a few years back with the Avs (I think it was against Phoenix) but it didn't work. (Which is good, because my TV would have a remote-sized hole in it if it did).
EDM 1 goal, 9 shots COL 0 goals, 7 shots
Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk was 3-0-1 with 1.47 GAA against the Avs going into tonight's game and it looked like he was on his way to dominating once again. But the Avs finally found a way to beat him: shoot from the point.
The festivities started relatively early, when Chuck Kobasew was hauled down by Ryan Whitney on a breakaway. With about 30 seconds to go in that PP, Jeff Petry took an ill-advised slashing penalty giving the Avs a quick 5-on-3. It wasn't pretty - the Avs looked confused and had trouble even getting the puck into the zone and the boos began to float down from the rafters. But, with another PP kitten just a few seconds away from losing its life (old meme reference), Shane O'Brien's wrister from the point found paydirt for his first goal in an Avalanche unipron.
Two minutes later, it was Elliot's turn. Ryan O'Reilly won a key offensive zone draw and pushed it back to Elliott on the point. Elliott walked the blueline and fired a right-handed wrister that deflected past a screened Dubnyk. How anyone screens a 6'6" goalie is beyond my level of comprehension, but apparently miracles do happen. Regardless, Elliott's first NHL goal was a big one. It was the eventual game winner, but also seemed to deflate the Oilers, who were on the back-end of a back-to-back and on the final game of a 4-game road trip. They didn't seem to have much in the tank left to overcome it.
The Avs D wasn't done scoring, though. Like O'Brien, Hejda atoned for his earlier mistake with a goal to ice the game. This goal was set up by the hustle of David Jones to beat out an icing call. Jones didn't play much tonight and didn't play all that well when he did, but that was a hell of a play to evade an icing call late in the game like that - especially as the Avs had no timeouts left. Even if Hejda hadn't slammed home the slapper to ice it, that one was kudos worthy for sure.
Paul Stastny scored a late empty net goal - the Avs 2nd ENG on the year - to cap things off.
EDM 0 goals, 10 shots COL 4 goals, 11 shots
This was a big win for the Avs. It evened them up at 2-2 on this 8-game home stand and moves them a little closer to that bunch of teams hovering in playoff territory (5 games behind LA for the last spot). The Avs now have 9 goals from the blueline, more than half of the 16 they had all of last year (and that's with Erik Johnson still sitting on zero). Elliott looked comfortable in his debut and had a lot of impressive plays. He has the look of a guy who is here to stay...and the Avs have the look of a team who could use him.
MHH Avalanche 3 Stars of the Night
- Stefan Elliott - Game winner in his NHL debut (and a respectable 'stache)
- Ryan O'Reilly - Assisted on the tying and winning goal, plus a big faceoff win on the latter
- Chuck Kobasew - 4 hits, 4 shots, 2 assists and drew a key penalty
- Duchene, Stastny, Hejduk
- Landeskog, O'Reilly, Winnik
- Porter, McClement, Kobasew
- McLeod, Galiardi, Jones
- Quincey - O'Brien
- Wilson - Elliott
- Hejda - O'Byrne
- Reported attendance was 17,684 - second highest at the Pepsi Center this year
- Linemates Ryan Wilson (+3) and Stefan Elliott (+1) are the only two Avs with a +/- above zero
- The Oilers did win one battle on the night. They dressed 4 Ryans to our 3.
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The Avs host Dallas on Monday