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Game 20 Recap: Avalanche Lose Game and Tanguay, Caps 3 - Avs 2

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Inconsistent play and a highlight reel goal by Alex Ovechkin brings the Avalanche's first winning streak skidding to a halt.

Berra doesn't know where the puck is and it's in his crease. That happens a lot.
Berra doesn't know where the puck is and it's in his crease. That happens a lot.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back Avs fans!

First Period:

The first 10:00 of this game were very back and forth and featured one whistle, so I never got a chance to catch up with the action. As such, here are the first 8:00 in bullet points:

- First shift from the Duchene line, O'Reilly hits Duchene on the rush for a good wrist shot chance. Wide right.

- 3:00 in, Fehr sends the puck in hard off the endboards, it hits Berra in the back and then squeaks out the other side of the crease just outside the post.  o_O Scary stuff.

- 5:00 Now Redmond saves a goal. Huge block.

- 7:00 That has to be Hejda's 3rd shot towards the net, tries to bounce it in front off the end boards. Hejda finger guns -  pew pew

- 7:30 Finally a whistle. Oh it's icing *sigh

- 8:00 The Avalanche finally established a longer possession in the Capitals zone, cycling the puck well in the low left corner.  Gabe Landeskog snuck out of the corner and made an incredible cross ice pass to a pinching Zach Remond, but he was denied by Holtby, who made a very strong move post to post and stood tall.

- 9:00 into the game the Avalanche had a three on one opportunity with the puck on MacKinnon's stick.  MacKinnon made a confident move, faking the pass across before shooting five hole on Holtby.  Holtby fought the puck a little, but made the save and unfortunately managed to send the rebound into the corner instead of his own crease (#ReboundControl)

At this point in the game we got an extended look at Peter Forsberg and his family in the stands.  They are all perfect and beautiful and amazing at everything.  As noted by some of our commenters tonight....


"Kill a man, one is a murderer, kill a million, a conqueror, kill them all, God." - Mewtwo 

Forsberg has a hot wife and his son has as good of hair as he does.

Anyway, on with the game.  The ice tilted briefly int he Capital's favor after the Foppa break, as Alex Ovechkin's line had a dominant shift in the Avs' zone.  The Avalanche recovered relatively quickly, however, and turned this game back into the end-to-end, neutral zone track meet we'd all become accustomed to in the first 12 minutes.

The last 5:00 of the period were every fan's worst nightmare/rage fuel as they watched Avs players skating aimlessly around the ice with no stick, instead of taking 5 strides to the bench to get one and come back.  First Cody McLeod lost his stick and flailed around on the ice for almost a minute of Capitals possession.  Every second that ticks by on a shift like that is one second closer to a penalty, and sure enough, Nick Holden eventually took one.  The Avalanche did a good job of limiting shots on the 5-on-4 early on, so Ryan O'Reilly decided to increase the challenge level by losing his stick and converting the play to a 5-on-3.5.  The Avalanche successfully killed the Nick Holden penalty, and the Avalanche started to find their offensive legs in the closing minutes of the period.  First, Jarome Iginla and Erik Johnson both had chances at loose pucks in the slot, but fanned on their shot attempts, then Matt Duchene snagged a pass streaking down the high slot and fired a laser wide of the net.  The Caps took the puck the other way and Jan Hejda made a great poke check on his offside to knock the puck away from Ovechkin at the buzzer.

All in all, not an awful period for the Avalanche.  They certainly showed some rust after several days off, but finished the period tied 8-8 in shots on goal (though the Avs did block 7 to the Caps 1, so the even shots are a bit deceptive).  The Avs struggled to get any solid, lengthy possessions in the Caps zone, but also did a good job of keeping the Capitals in the neutral zone.

Second Period

The opening 5:00 of this period were just bizarre.  The Avalanche started off with a strong shift in the offensive zone from the Duchene line.  Twice the Capitals got possession of the puck, but Ryan O'Reilly and Tyson Barrie stole the puck to re-establish the offense.  O'Reilly made a particularly good play, stripping the puck before passing to the crease for Duchene, who couldn't get his stick on the pass.  As the reeling Capitals finally got a change, Erik Johnson whipped the puck up ice and had his pass picked off by Alex Ovechkin.  EJ poked the puck away from Ovie, who amazingly reached back and recovered the puck with his skate only to throw on the breaks and send a pass across the ice, seemingly through Jarome Iginla's stick, and onto the tape of Nicklas Backstrom.  Berra stood no chance, as Backstrom quickly released the puck into the back of the Avs net.  A great shift on one end, followed by a turnover, and a quick goal on the other end.

Two shifts later Nathan MacKinnon and Dennis Everberg absolutely took over, dominating the Capitals in their own zone and cycling like madmen.  They had several near scoring chances broken up by Capitals sticks but couldn't seem to break through. Towards the end of their shift the Capitals finally got the puck in the Avalanche zone, and fired the puck into the crease from behind the Avs net.  For the second time this game, the puck rebounded off the back of Reto Berra, trickled through the crease,and for the second time this game, Zach Redmond saved the day, pulling the puck to safety.  Redmond dished the puck up ice to Dennis Everberg, who lead the breakout up ice.  Everberg got the puck to MacKinnon, who got the puck on net.  Holtby made the save, but Daniel Briere found the rebound and fired it home to tie the game at one.

Little by little the Capitals started to tilt the ice in their favor after the Avalanche goal, and Berra's save totals started to climb in a big hurry.  That said, the worst Capitals shot never actually made it's way the Avalanche net.  Off an offensive zone faceoff 7:00 into the period, Alex Ovechkin unloaded on a puck which deflected off Alex Tanguay's face and up into his face.  Here's the ouch-filled gif.  Nathan MacKinnon and Dennis Everberg took turns filling Tanguay's spot on the top line as Tanguay headed to the locker room.  The Capitals had a number of good opportunities after the Tanguay injury, and a combination of good work by Berra and blind luck by Berra kept the score even

The Avs next good opportunity of the period came with 8:30 seconds left in the period when Landeskog sent a beautifulcross ice saucer pass to Jarome Iginla, who tee'd up a huge one timer from near the point.  Holtby made the save, then found John Mitchell who was crashing the net, and checked him into the back of the cage.  After finally spending some time the Capitals zone, the Avalanche immediately gave up their second goal of the game when Jason Chimera fired a hard wrister top shelf from near the top of the circles.  Chimera took a great wrist shot, sure, but Berra was not screened and the shot came from a long ways out. That's one he should save. 2-1 Capitals.

Back with the top line, Dennis Everberg was at it again, carrying the puck through center ice with two Capitals players draped across his back (but somehow now hooking or holding him) and setting up Matt Duchene for another good scoring opportunity. Duchene fired the puck wide, and as the Avs looked to regain control of the puck, Alex Ovechkin made a new friend with the Avs Swedish rookie, slashing him multiple times away from the play.  None of these things were penalties for some reason.

The game settled down considerably in the final minutes of the period, with both teams struggling to get out of the neutral zone, but the Avalanche did get a few good opportunities in the last two minutes, the best of which was an Erik Johnson wrist shot from the point which found it's way through a thick four-player screen before catching Holtby in the pad and deflecting wide.

After two, the Avs lead 18-17 in SOG but have still blocked a lot more shots than the Capitals. This game has been very vanilla, and a very mixed bag in terms of performance. Some flashes of Avalanche identity offensively, but the team has really struggled to do anything tonight with much consistency.

Third Period

The Avalanche came out flying in the first 5:00 of the third period. They won the vast majority of puck battles, they put everything they could towards the net, and the made smart passes in their own zone with a purpose (AKA moving up ice with speed, not chipping off the boards).  Gabe Landeskog's line was especially effective early on, dominating the Capitals' players every time they touched the ice.  There was a really interesting moment about 3:00 into the period, when Nathan MacKinnon flew up ice against Karl Alzner, made a great move and fired the puck on net.  After circling behind the net to come back into the play, Alex Ovechkin unloaded on MacKinnon with one of the hardest hits the kid has taken in his young career.  MacKinnon got right back to his skates and seemed unaffected by the hit, because he got right back into the action.  After a whistle, MacKinnon grabbed the puck high out of the air and blindly threw it towards the Capitals net.  The puck took a fortuitous bounce straight to the stick of Gabe Landeskog, who reached way out to his left to corral the puck before sweeping it back across his body to Tyson Barrie, pinching towards the net at full speed. This was identical to Landeskog's feed to Redmond earlier in the game, only prettier, and Barrie is a better shooter.  Barrie tapped the puck in and tied the game at 2. Woohoo.

The Avalanche didn't let the goal slow them down, and they were without a doubt the better team through the first half of the third period. Most of the credit goes to the Avalanche's top two lines, which were strong in all three zones, but Daniel Briere and Nathan MacKinnon also deserve some credit for good work on the third line, including a bad angle shot from Briere which handcuffed Holtby up high.  9:00 into the period Matt Duchene picked up the puck and danced his way through the Capitals defense, but just as he pulled Holtby out of position, staring into a yawning net, the puck slipped off the blade of his stick.

Tyson Barrie wasn't content with his goal, and amped up his game to a whole new level in the third period. He was flying on both sides of the puck, dangling around Capitals players with the puck, and picking pockets without the puck.  With 6:00 remaining in the game the Avalanche looked like they were headed for their first power play of the game when Wilson ran over Everberg in the corner, then punched Nathan MacKinnon after the whistle.  Erik Johnson skated in and grabbed Wilson to have some words with him and when we returned from the commercial break, Johnson was also in the box, making it a 4-on-4 situation.  Unless something happened after the feed cut away, I don't understand that call one bit.  Johnson did nothing to earn a roughing penalty, especially in a game where only 1 penalty had been called through 55 minutes of play. I mean come on.

4-on-4 was not kind to the Avalanche as Alex Ovechkin dipped, ducked, and dodged his way through the Avalanche defense to score a highlight reel goal to give his team a late lead.  I'll let the goal speak for itself:

The Avalanche struggled through the rest of 4-on-4, but started to apply some pressure again in the final 2:00 minutes. Before they could start generating real scoring chances though, Patrick Roy had to go with his nightly "down by one late in the game 4th line shift."  Predictably, that line did nothing of note, and only killed time needed to make the comeback.  With 2:00 left in the game Daniel Briere got a lucky bounce which gave him a 1-0 opportunity on the right side, but he was unable to beat Holtby up high.  Next came Gabe Landeskog, with a spin-around wrist shot from the right circle with 1:01 to play, the puck deflect on its way to the net and found its way into Holtby's five hole, but never found its way out the other side.  With the goalie pulled, Landeskog and O'Reilly both had good chances to jam the puck in up close, but neither could find twine.  The abysmal luck for those two forwards continues.  Buzzer sounds, game ends, and the Avs slip back to last place in the Central Division.

MHH Three Stars of the Game:

1. Tyson Barrie - Great goal and great play throughout the night. Now leads the team in points with 14.

2. Jan Hejda - All it took was one mistake for Ovechkin to do something special, but the rest of the night Hejda handled him well.

3. Landeskog/Everberg - These two Swedes drove possession well with Forsberg in the house.

MHH Alarming Stat of the Game:

Duchene 0G 0P -2 1 SOG, 31% FO%

Iginla 0G 0P 1 SOG

O'Reilly 0G 0P -1 0 SOG

Combined salary: Eleventy Billion Dollars.

Combined Impact: Zero

In Case You Missed It:

Alex Tanguay took a scary puck to the face and went to the hospital with a jaw injury.  The Avalanche had zero healthy scratches in tonight's game, so with Jamie McGinn nursing a back injury the Avalanche might have to call up a player from Lake Erie to ice a full roster on Saturday.

Next Up:

The Hurricanes visit the Pepsi Center Saturday night at 9:00 PM EST, 7:00 PM MST