The Eastern Conference resident and NBC wunderkind Washington Capitals traveled to Denver for their only meeting of the season against our Avalanche. Colorado continued their dominance of the two-time-zones-away conference however by winning a tight offensive and defensive game. The best players in Denver were wearing the home jerseys and played a complete game. The "full sixty minutes" cliches flowed like wine after the game, but everybody at MHH will take the W for the Av's 5th straight home win.
The Avalanche started the scoring with a knucklepuck chip shot from Cody McLeod that Washington's Michal Neuvirth never saw. The Highlander's first goal of the season was not the greatest, but it all counts on the big board. Washington tried to immediately even the tilt, but Jean-Sebastien Giguere and his catch glove took away a golden opportunity in the low slot. The pressure up until at least the half-way mark came mostly from the Capitals as they probably tripled possession time compared to Colorado. Matt Duchene had a great opportunity, but Neuvirth made a big left pad save on the in-close slapper. That chance seemed to even the keel, so to speak, for the Avs as they began to get some more quality opportunities. The Nicklas Backstrom Alex Ovechkin line operated at an extremely high skill level though and the Paul Stastny line + Giguere had to be good. With about seven minutes left in the period, immediately after Evan Brophey had drawn a penalty, McLeod took the next step to a Gordie Howe hat-trick by getting in a pretty-good dust-up with old friend Matt Hendricks. Erik Johnson's slo-mo coast-to-coast "rush" and feed to T.J. Galiardi in the low slot was the highlight of the man advantage attempt, but Neuvirth stood tall.
With about two-and-a-half minutes left in the period, Jay McClement took a holding penalty. A classic positional save from Giguere and Gabriel Landeskog getting two good short-handed shots were the highlight of the successful penalty kill. That momentum carried over for the last 30 seconds of the period and the Avalanche entered the lockerroom with a one goal lead but a 11-9 shot deficit.
The 2nd period started with some sustained pressure and nifty behind-the-net work from the top line and McClement's line. When Ovechkin did get his hands on the puck on the ensuing shift, he got a good look at Giguere and the Colorado netminder had to make a save on the initial shot on his left post and then slide over and take away the right side after a wraparound and pass took the puck that direction. The pace slowed down a tad at this point as both clubs began to try and counter-punch attacks in the neutral zone. Some tenacious forechecking in the Washington end generated some quality possession by the top two lines, but some less than stellar defensive zone puck-handling (Giguere included) gave the Caps some looks as well.
The Caps really had some problems with the Stastny line around the middle of the period as Winnik and Duchene got the cycle going with their center and got some great opportunities, but nobody could bury anything. Not long after, Shane O`Brien took a stupid high-sticking period behind his own net, after the whistle...greeeeeat. The PK went to work and Washington didn't get much of anything going. A few shifts later though, a relatively harmless-seeming Alexander Semin zipped a wrister that looked to fool Giguere under his arm and got Washington on the board at just under seven minutes left in the period. Less than a minute later however, a heady back-handed chip pass up the boards from Milan Hejduk to Johnson resulted in a EJ slapper that found it's way through three-hundred twenty-eight bodies to the back of the Caps net. 2-1 Avalanche.
After that goal, the Galiardi line went to work and got some great pressure and forced Neuvirth to make some saves through traffic. Their reward was a Jeff Halpern boarding penalty (on O`Brien) when the Caps managed to clear it into Colorado's end of the rink. The power play didn't start well with a Stephan Elliott turnover and some quality work by the Washington PK, but the Avs settled down and started moving the puck well but couldn't net a goal. An Ovechkin rush immediately after forces Galiardi to take him down from behind and Washington earned a power play with less than two minutes left in the period. Ryan O`Reilly immediately got the crowd buzzing by winning the face-off, presureing the point on the Johnson clear and then picking Backstrom's pocket to get a great chance short-handed. Neuvirth (and an un-called hack-job by Backstrom) did just enough to prevent the back-breaking goal. The Avs had the better opportunities on the PK, but took the 2-1 lead into the intermission with a 21-19 shot advantage.
The 3rd period started with a half minute of PK time for the Burgundy and Frostbite Blue but they manage to kill off with nary a shot. Washington fed off the jump though and got some good looks after the man advantage. The Avs got their looks too, especially O'Reilly who had a great opportunity on a far-side rebound from a Landeskog slap shot but Brower had tied his stick up just enough. Few whistles and fast play added up to a quick first six minutes of the period. Around the halfway mark of the period, the O'Reilly line put on a clinic at both ends of the ice before McClement skates in on the line change for a spectacular chance that the Washington netkeeper barely prevented from finding twine due to his right pad.
The O'Reilly line and the Stastny line made tons of people stand up a few time over the next couple of minutes and even the McClement line had some great work all over the ice. Washington couldn't get any quality chances it was obvious that the O'Reilly line was something that the Caps were a little unprepared to handle. On the flipside, Ovechkin was drawing lots of attention from the defensemen and back-checking forwards all night. A lazy icing by Daniel Winnik almost resulted in the Great8 getting on the board on the ensuing faceoff, however. Landeskog got in on the whole ice game with a great diving pokecheck at the blueline with just under four minutes remaining as the Avs got a little scrambly in their own end.
The Stastny line went back to work in the offensive end and ate some important seconds off of the clock with sustained possession and decent scoring chances from a good cycle. An offsides call forced Dale Hunter to call his timeout, but Stastny's line ate more time with a hard pressure attack. When Washington did get the puck into the Av's end, some good work ultimately resulted in a near-miss on the empty-net/icing call. Joe Sacco took his timeout and even with some good defensive zone work, Giguere was forced to make two quality saves with 20 seconds left in the game. The next faceoff resulted in Jan Hejda chipping a rolling puck over the boards for the penalty though. Halpern got tossed from the offensive zone faceoff but Shane O'Brien carried the McClement win behind the net and cleared it down the ice to ice it. Winnik made a valiant attempt to get the empty-netter, but that was all she wrote. Avs win 2-1 and outshoot the visiting Capitals 28-26.
MHH Avalanche 3 Stars of the Night
- J.S. Giguere
- Erik Johnson
- Ryan O'Reilly/Paul Stastny lines
- Landeskog - O'Reilly - Hejduk
- Duchene - Stastny - Winnik
- Malone - McClement - Galiardi
- McLeod - Brophey - van der Gulik
- O'Brien - Johnson
- Hejda - O'Byrne
- Elliot - Hunwick (yes, really!)
- Prior to puck-drop, the Altiboobs mentioned that Semyon Varlamov had injured his back in the last San Jose game and that was impetus for Giggy's start against Varly's old team. Not the five goals against.
- Dear Brett, Fuck You! Love, Cody and Erik.
- Landeskog has never met a shot that he wouldn't take and Galiardi was cherry-picking like it was Saturday Night Drop-in.
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