In the Avs' first game after putting Captain Gabe Landeskog on injured reserve, how would they respond? If the first 58 seconds was any indication, the team we all love might be in some serious trouble. Now I know this isn't the Avs first game without him; however, there is a big difference between a player being hurt and "day-to-day" and someone who is genuinely injured and going on IR.
So back to the first 58 seconds of the game. Nail Yakupov is showing the why he was the number one overall pick in last summer's draft by burying his 5th goal of the young season. Off a pretty pass from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went right between the legs of Ryan O'Byrne, Yakupov was left wide open on the back door and basically had an empty net to shot at, and he didn't miss.
The rest of the period the Avs were the team getting a majority of the quality scoring chances. They outshot the Oilers 13-7 in the first period and even killed off a penalty, something the Avs had trouble with the last time these two teams met. The Avs did manage to draw two penalties in the first, but where unable to score on the power play chances.
Heading into the second period the Avalanche had a lot of positive things to build on.
There was a key moment in this game just about halfway thru the second period. The Avs would get about 30 seconds of a 5 on 3 power play time. Even though they were unable to score, they did get 2-3 really good shots on net that Dubnyk was able to make some great saves on; none better than the save on Jamie McGinn's tip. The power play would expire without the Avs scoring; however, just 3 seconds after the penalty expired, Ryan Wilson was able to find P.A. Parenteau in the middle of a crowd. With an absolutely beautiful deflection he was able to beat Dubnyk and tie the game at 1. It was his 6th goal of the young season.
A couple of minutes following the goal, the Avs most recent call up David Van der Gulik was called for hooking. This had me more than a little concerned. With the Avs recent inability to kill penalties I was afraid the Avs would give the momentum the gained off the tying goal, right back to Edmonton. I've never been happier to be wrong.
Just as Van der Gulik's penalty expired, he came flying out of the box and disrupted the Oilers rush up the ice, forced a turnover and gave Matt Duchene the chance to rush the puck up the ice. With the Avs streaking up the ice, Jamie McGinn was able to sneak behind the defense and Dutchy found him on with an absolutely perfect pass which McGinn tipped into the top corner of the net and past Dubnyk to give the Avs a 2-1 lead.
The Avs closed out the second period with more strong play and didn't yield many scoring chances either. The Avs would again outshoot the Oilers, this period though the gap was a little more narrow 13-11, giving them an overall lead in shots of 26-18. Leading in shots is good, but can be misleading unless you are great scoring chances as well, and the Avs are doing just that.
Heading into the third period with a 2-1 lead the Avs didn't want to change anything. They were looking to continue to get shots on Dubnyk, continue to play solid defensively, and if all possible stay out of the penalty box. Even though the Avs' penalty kill had gone 4 for 4 thru the first two periods, they didn't want to give this young, talented Oilers team any chance to gain any momentum.
With just over 12 and a half minutes to go in the third period, P.A. Parenteau made a nifty pass to Duchene just over the blue line and Duchene was able to use his "sixth" gear to beat the defenseman wide and was hauled down from behind. That would put the Avs on their 5th power play of the game. Despite getting several shots on net, the Avs weren't able to score on the power play.
After the power play had expired the Avs continued to get quality scoring chances. With just about nine minutes to play, it seemed like the Oilers legs were starting to get a little heavy. They were starting to lose races to loose pucks. The Avs players sensed this and did what your supposed to do, turn up the physical intensity and punish the opposition.
With just under 7 minutes to play, Jamie McGinn used his deceptive speed and perhaps some tired Edmonton legs to his advantage. With McGinn breaking into the zone, Justin Schultz had no choice but to haul McGinn down and put the Avs on their 6th power play of the game. Even with a one goal lead, there didn't seem to be much of a sense of urgency on this particular power play. They seemed more content with using the power play to let two more minutes tick off the clock and therefore didn't get many, if any shots on net. There's a saying in hockey, actually in sports in general, if your playing not to lose, you end up playing not to win and when you play too conservatively it ends up costing you.
Then it happened. With just over 3 minutes to play, Paul Stastny was called for delay of game for smothering the puck. It was announced in the building as a "faceoff violation" but replays clearly showed Stastny covering the puck with his hand. The Oilers gambled and pulled Dubnyk with over 2 minutes to play and give them a 6 on 4 advantage. The penalty kill stepped up big again today and killed the penalty making them a perfect 3 for 3 on the day. The icing on the cake, as Paul Stastny came out of the penalty box John Mitchell was able to find him and he buried the puck into the empty net for his 3rd goal in just 2 games.
The Avs moved to a perfect 3-0 thus far on home ice and will look to continue that streak when the always dangerous Dallas Stars come to town on Monday night.
GAME NOTES: Ryan Wilson left the game with a leg injury, after seeing the replays it looks like an ankle injury. I don't want to speculate, but the way it twisted, I'm hoping it's not a high ankle sprain.
Derek's Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star: P.A. Parenteau (1G)
2nd Star: Matt Duchene (2A)
1st Star: Jamie McGinn (GWG, 1A)