Could the Avalanche win their first preseason game before it was too late? Or would they enter the 2014-2015 season trailing the league by an insurmountable number of preseason "moral-victory points." Lets find out!
The first period started off with a bit of a jump that almost had me thinking we'd be watching a real game of NHL hockey, alas, this thing quickly degraded into the sloppy lackluster preseason hockey that we're used to by this point in early October. Neither team had very many dangerous opportunities, as both squads focused a lot of their offense back to the point and looked to score via traffic in front. The Avalanche's best chance of the period came when Matt Duchene hounded a King's player behind their own net, picked off the drop pass and fed Ryan O'Reilly just outside the goal crease. Quick was... quick to cut off the angle and gave O'Reilly nothing to shoot at. Later in the period the Avalanche received their first power play opportunity when Jarome Iginla was interfered with at the blueline. The Avs struggled to generate offense for most of the power play, but in the final moments Nathan MacKinnon deked his way through the Los Angeles crease where he was stopped by Jonathan Quick's paddle. Zach Redmond made an excellent pinch down the right side looking for the rebound, but fired the puck wide. The Kings would finish the period on the power play, and beat Semyon Varlamov with a slapshot just a fraction of a second after the buzzer.
The Avalanche started this period with a pair of massive defensive miscues accompanied by a pair of Tyler Toffoli goals. On the first, Ryan Wilson chased
Brad Richards Mike Richards all the way to the blueline, even after he had dished the puck to a teammate. The Kings then made short work of the Avalanche forward defending down low and Toffoli beat Varlamov with a one-timer. On the next goal, Brad Stuart made an excellent body position play to skate a Kings player off the puck before looking up ice and passing the puck directly to a Los Angeles player. He then immediately made another strong defensive play to win the puck back before missing a wide open Gabe Landeskog on the breakout. Landeskog failed to get the puck out of the zone and the Kings scored off the turnover. After falling behind by two the Avalanche found their legs and started to put significant pressure on the Kings, highlighted by a few strong shifts from the 4th line of Borna Rendulic, Andrew Agozzino, and Dennis Everberg. Everberg would get the Avalanche on the boards when Matt Duchene extended his shift and sent a saucer pass to the pair of european wingers in the slot. The puck bounced off of Rendulic to Everberg, who after a pair of swipes, sent the puck past Jonathan Quick. 2-1 Kings. The Avalanche kept good pressure on the Avalanche throughout the rest of the second period, but couldn't get the equalizer. While the Kings still lead the game 2-1, the Avalanche were crushing the defending champ in the corsi department. 28 shots for the Avalanche and just 12 for the Kings.
The Avalanche started Period 3 with an extremely ineffectual power play but started to find some momentum once 5 on 5 play resumed. Quick's best save of the night came early in the period when he stretched out the left pad to rob Jarome Iginla on the doorstep. A few minutes later Nick Holden took the puck from a Kings forward near the Avs net, led the breakout and dished the puck to Jarom Iginla. Iggy tried to send a pass back across the ice to Holden on the rush, but it deflected off the defenseman towards a trailing Matt Duchene. Duchene fired the puck inside out from the top of the circles and beat quick with a laser of a shot. 2-2. Unfortunately the Avalanche would give the momentum back to Kings when Brad Stuart took a penalty deep in the Avalanche zone. The Kings had a number of dangerous opportunities on the power play, including a bizarre deflection off the top right corner of the net.
After the Avalanche killed the penalty this game quickly transformed from mediocre preseason exhibition game to all out full ice madness. The heightened intensity started when Kyle Clifford skated down the right wing and was absolutely blown up by a monstrous hit from Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson. The Avs stormed up the ice and looked to have a great opportunity when Slava Voynov returned the favor and laid out Alex Tanguay in open ice. With bodies and pucks flying everywhere the game turned into an end-to-end affair and both Varlamov and Quick were forced to make impressive saves. Perhaps the best highlight of the sequence came when Erik Johnson stepped up in the neutral zone to steal the puck with speed and create a partial breakaway down the right side. Johnson tried to beat Quick down low but couldn't find the five-hole. Amidst all the action the Avalanche made another change to their top two lines, reuniting Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla with pivot Matt Duchene. The second line was Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Ryan O'Reilly.
Just as the Avalanche started to take control of the third period, Jarome Iginla was called for a very light interference penalty. The Avalanche headed back to the PK with just over 3:00 left in the period, but did well to kill the penalty off. The Kings had one good chance when Brayden McNabb got a wide open slapshot at the blueline, but Varlamov was unscreened and snagged the puck in his glove. One highpoint of the penalty kill was the work of Dennis Everberg, who was extremely aggressive on the PK and caused an early clear for the Avs. Off to overtime we go.
The Avalanche started the overtime period with a forward pairing of Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay. Oh boy this should be fun, these guys really know eachother and have a lot of chemistry and I can't wait to see what thei..... Oh. We're on the PK again. Ugh. 4 on 3 power plays are really, really deadly, and the King's looked it throughout their 2:00 man advantage. The first group of Avalanche penalty killers did a great job of keeping the Kings to the outside and forcing shots from bad angles which Varlamov stopped easily. In the last 30 seconds of the power play, the second PK grouping struggled mightily and Semyon Varlamov had to make a pair of very impressive saves, the first of which was a sprawling save with the arm when Justin Williams walked through the Avalanche penalty killers and tried to tuck the puck past Varlamov on the right side. Scary stuff. The Avalanche dominated the rest of the 4 on 4 period, first with a pairing off Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, then with Gabriel Landeskog replacing MacKinnon. The Avs had a few decent chances in OT but failed to beat Quick.
Kopitar - Stopped
Duchene - Stopped
Richards - Stopped (Slapshot lol)
MacKinnon - SCORE (Sweet little fake shot with the left leg kick. Quick bit like a horse)
Stoll - Stopped
Unquestionably the highlight of the game was Varlamov falling on his back like a turtle after stopping Stoll, then doing a full body fist pump from his back.
Thanks to @myregularface for this excellent Varly gif.
MHH 3 Stars:
1. Matt Duchene - He was Duchene-ing people all night and took over the game in the third period.
2. Erik Johnson - Solid, solid, solid.
3. Dennis Everberg - Probably earned himself a roster spot for opening night. Good on ya kid.