Gotta love the animosity brewed by home-and-home series. Cody McLeod and Winchester dropped the mitts just over 2 minutes in. Not the greatest fight, and it didn't really matter because after the scrap the Avs turned the puck over twice in about 3 seconds which led to a Ryan Clowe goal. Landeskog lost the puck bringing it up ice, which led to the puck back in the Avs end. Varly tried to play the puck but didn't get much on his pass and it ended up on Couture''s stick. Varlamov scrambled back in net to make the save, but the rebound went right out into the slot and Clowe buried it. Bad set of events early on for the NHL's youngest team. The puck just seemed to bounce on both Landy and Varly (reminds you of all those years playing against Dallas on that crappy excuse for ice they had before their new arena).
The Avs would strike back when the NHL's #1 road powerplay got a chance about 5 minutes in after O'Reilly brought the puck up ice and two Sharks couldn't get it from him so they got frustrated and took a bad penalty. On the powerplay, Stastny won the draw back to Erik Johnson who took a stride towards the middle of the ice and let loose a rocket that Stastny tipped in to knot things up at 1.
The Avs would take a bad penalty of their own just minutes later when Quincey caught the puck in front of Varlamov and threw it up ice. To his credit, he had just blocked a shot, was barely able to stand, and the Sharks were buzzing. It was like a defensive version of a hail mary. Varlamov atoned for his early error and made an insane save on Joe Thornton - who had a wide open net, but somehow Varly got his stick on Thornton's bid and robbed Jumbo Joe blind.
To end the first, Galiardi drew another San Jose undisciplined penalty as he chased the puck through neutral ice and Brent Burns decided he should punch TJ in the face. Bad move Brent. On the PP, Stefan Elliot let go his patented wrister which found it's way through traffic. Niemi made the save, but O'Reilly was in good position and slammed home the rebound. 2-0 Avs. Landeskog made two great plays on the goal: first he defied science and kept the puck in at the blueline with a man hounding him, and then moments later set the screen in front that led to O'Reilly's rebound goal. In case you were wondering, that PP unit was: O'Reilly (20), Landeskog (19), Duchene (20), Elliot (20) and Hejduk (35). The future looks bright in Denver.
Well, it looked bright. The Sharks created a turnover behind the Avs goal and scored less than 2 minutes into the 2nd period. Game tied 2-2. Duchene didn't like that scenario so he decided to channel Forsberg and took the puck behind San Jose's net with one arm on the stick and one arm holding off the defender. Duchene then one hand passed the puck out in front to Stastny who fired a backhander into the back of the net. Beauty. Avs back on top 3-2.
After the Avs killed off a reckless van der Gulik penalty, Ryan Clowe must have said some unkind words about Daniel Winnik's mother because the two dropped gloves and really went at it. Clowe took a plethora of HUGE swings, but luckily his haymakers weren't making much hay. The fight seemingly took Winnik to some kind of zen-like higher plain because with under 2 minutes to go in the same period he put the Avs up by two. The Avalanche worked hard and kept the puck in the Sharks zone for an extended period with great work by Galiardi and van der Gulik (who got an assist on the play), culminating with a perfect pass by Stastny out to Winnik from behind the net. And yes, that tally would give Daniel Winnik a Gordie Howe hat trick (all in one period).
In the third, San Jose turned up the pressure and caused another Avalanche turnover which turned into another Sharks' goal. All three SJ goals were the direct result of Avalanche turnovers. Their 4th goal was simply hard work. Pavelski parked right in front and slammed home a loose puck. As he did on every SJ goal to this point, Varlamov made the first save, but couldn't stop the second chance. And we're tied again 4-4. The tie didn't last long though as Logan Couture tipped a Patrick Marleau shot up and over Varlamov - and just like that, a 2-goal lead gets turned into a 1-goal deficit. 5-4 Sharks.
The Avs threw everything they could at San Jose up to the bitter end (including Elliot making a goal line save), but they couldn't do what San Jose did two nights ago in Denver and get that tying goal in the final seconds. The Avs played two great periods, but failed to match San Jose's desperation in the third and it cost them the game.
MHH Avalanche 3 Stars of the Night
- Daniel Winnik 1G, 1A Gordie Howe Hat Trick
Paul Stastny 2G, 1A (cry all you want, but the Avs are a better team with him in the line up)
- Erik Johnson 1A, led team in hits and TOI
- Landeskog - O'Reilly - Hejduk
- Duchene - Stastny - Winnik
- van der Gulik - McClement - Galiardi
- McLeod - Brophey - Malone
- Quincey - O'Byrne
- O'Brien - Hejda
- Elliot - Johnson
- Erik Johnson was good in this game (with the exception of a weak ass pass that resulted in a turnover and goal). The funny thing is, he wasn't trying to do anything flashy, he was simply solid all around - which displayed his talent much more impressively than when he tries to do everything himself and the puck ends up in the back of his own net. That's all you gotta do EJ, just be you.
- van der Gulik and Malone both had decent games. Didn't notice Brophey much...
- Duchene's best passing game of the season. Nice to see him using his teammates more.
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
Semyon Varlamov gets to battle his old mates when the Washington Capitals visit Pepsi Center on Saturday at 7pm. Set your DVR to stun. This is also the day of the "Capitals Schmapitals" meet up. Go Avs!