8th place in the west was up for grabs tonight in the final game for both squads before the All-Star break, and the game began with some palpable urgency as both teams attempted to make a statement. In the end, the Avs statement was something like "oops".
The Avs were without Ryan O`Reilly tonight as he came down with an illness right before the game. With Ryan Wilson coming back and a plethora of defensemen eager to dress, Coach Sacco decided to roll with 7 defensemen in the absence of the Avs' leading scorer. The shortened forward corps made from some new line combinations, and one of those, the line of Landeskog - Galiardi - Hejduk, struck early. After a dominating shift by the Paul Stastny line, T.J. Galiardi and company brought the puck into the visitor's zone with some speed and Galiardi sent a bad angle backhander up and over Backstrom for the early lead.
A few penalties eventually led to a Minnesota powerplay goal that looked as if it changed direction off of Landeskog on it's way past Giguere. 1-1. Shortly after the goal, Erik Johnson dropped NHL hit leader Cal Clutterbuck with a sampling of his own medicine. Cal looked up at the refs to see if it was a penalty - no Cal, that's just what it feels like to get hit. Now get up please. Go back and play with your friends.
With just under 4 minutes left in the first, the Avs fell victim to another breakaway (Bobby Ryan had at least 3 of his own last game in Anaheim), as Kyle Brodziak broke in alone on Giguere after Jan Hejda got pummeled at Minnesota's blueline and no one was back to defend. Giguere made the save, but more disheartening than the initial breakaway was that no one hustled back to pick up the trailing Dany Heatley who snapped Brodziak's heads-up pass up and over Giguere far side. 2-1 Mild.Timeout Avalanche. Period ends with the Avs being outshot 13-4 and out-face-offed 13-5. The Avs fell asleep after the first goal - maybe they thought the game was over?
The Avs sniffed some smelling salts during intermission and promptly tied things early in the second when Daniel Winnik's wrister squeezed through Backstrom and rolled along the goalline before Chuck Kobasew punched it home. If that play had happened in the first period, no Avalanche player would have been near that loose puck, but luckily, Chuck the veteran, woke up.
A little bit later, Winnik got straight up boarded - NO CALL - and since the refs didn't want to do their job, Daniel decided to police things himself and immediately challenged his assailant. Both went off for 5 mins, but DW also got 2 mins for a slash to kick off the scrap. Nuts and bolts. Nuts and bolts. We. Got. Screwed. Avs step up and kill the penalty, but the majority of the rest of the period is spent in their own zone. Another bad penalty (Shane O`Brien) gave Minnesota their 5th powerplay of the game. All these penalties stifled any momentum the Avs could have mustered and they were lucky to get out of the period still tied at 2. Shots 22-11 Land of 10,000 lakes. The NBC play-by-play man kept blurting "Colorado survives!" - and that's what it felt like, by the skin of their teeth.
With 12:16 to play, Shane O'Brien tried to do too much and gets stripped of the puck leading to a two-on-nobody. Wild score to take a lead 3-2. Horrible play. All 5 Colorado players sat on the blueline as O'Brien tried to stick handle the puck into the offensive zone. Nobody back to play D. It's a 2-2 game, you don't need all 5 players jumping up into the play. That also makes 5 breakaway goals against in the last two games. Teams are making the Avs pay for their mistakes.
MHH Bestest Three Avs of the Night
- Giguere, 31 saves, played well and bailed his team out of most of their breakdowns
- Johnson, solid all around game, 4 hits
- Kobasew, why not.
- Jones - Stastny - Mueller
- Winnik - McClement - Kobasew
- Landeskog - Galiardi - Hejduk
- McLeod - van der Gulik
- O'Byrne - Hejda
- O'Brien - Johnson
- Quincey - Wilson
- In our first glimpse of the Avs without the new and improved O'Reilly, it was painfully apparent how much they need his steady and calm presence on the ice - and his faceoff prowess.
- Johnson had a good game tonight. Good work with his stick and his body (TWSS). He seems to be developing a bit of some baditude as he's playing with some nastiness and a visible scowl on his face.
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
Avs are off till next Tuesday, the 31st, when the take on the Oilers in Edmonton, 7:30pm.