With the Stars coming off a back-to-back, the Avalanche had a good chance at a couple points tonight and boy did they capitalise. From Tanguay lighting things up in spite of his fishbowl face to Duchene swarming the Stars like an entire hive of angry little Canadian goal-scoring bees, this game had it all. And as an added bonus, the Avs donned their Blueberry third jersies on this auspicious day. Let's get to the recap:
The pace of the game's opening minutes was dictated by an early power play opportunity for the Stars. Tyson Barrie was called for boarding Vern Fiddler at slightly over a minute in. Fortunately the Avs' power play coverage looked pretty decent. Alex Tanguay stood out in particular and they held the Stars to zero shots.
Perhaps it was the Stars playing their second in a row, but the Avs looked awake and active early in the first. O'Reilly and Iginla--two of the most oft-criticised forwards these days--were both rushing the net and looking hungry for rebound opportunities.
At 5:23, Colorado got their own chance on the power play, though they failed to convert. The Avs struggled to keep the puck in their end at first but got a few shots. As a side note, I'm liking the pairing of Zach Redmond with Tyson Barrie and/or with Erik Johnson on the PP right now. Though it hasn't led to any goals yet (and really, I'm starting to think PPGs are a myth), it looks less anaemic than it did.
Seven minutes in, the Avs got another chance on the power play that once again failed to produce a goal. Erik Cole was called for interference against Maxime Talbot, who might have sold it a little bit. This PP looked better in as much as there were some good opportunities down low and the Avs got some good rebound opportunities off of Anders Lindback.
Later on in the period, both teams seemed to turn the puck over back and forth at centre ice until a particularly brutal turnover by Nick Holden led directly to a Cody Eakin goal. After Holden gave the puck away to the Stars' top scoring line, the goal was actually deflected in off of Jan Hejda.
Stars score first: 0-1 Dallas
Less than a minute later, Holden couldn't keep the puck in, which led to a rush from Dallas. At this point I was starting to see Holden as more of a liability than Guenin this game.
Coincidentally, Guenin got an assist on Danny Briere's goal shortly thereafter. Briere lobbed a turnaround wrister at Lindback, and it somehow snuck between the post and Lindback's Lindback, so to speak.
Colorado Retaliates, Tied 1-1
Now that each team had a weird goal under their belts, they went back to more of the same: Avs pressuring and taking shots, Dallas with the occasional rush into the Avs zone. Calvin Pickard made a great save on Jordie Benn through a mass of traffic with around four minutes left.
As the period wound down, the Avs spent a lot of time in their own zone, but Landeskog picked a pocket and sailed toward Lindback, keeping an eye out for teammate Jarome Iginla. Iggy made for the net, Landeskog slipped him a dirty little pass, and the Avs went up 2-1 with 3:30 remaining.
Landeskog Feeds Iginla Like It's Thanksgiving Dinner, Avs Up 2-1
They almost made it 3-1 when MacKinnon got a nifty breakaway opportunity, but Stars d-man John Klingberg kept on top of him like white on rice and broke it up.
The Avs suffered another fluky goal against when Dallas' Patrick Eaves stole the puck off of Hejda, then gained steam in a good rush toward Calvin Pickard in net. He was trailed by Erik Johnson, who ended up deflecting the puck in off his own stick in one of the most freakish, physics-defying deflections we've seen this year. Johnson showed the stick how he felt about it after, too.
Wonky Johnson Deflection - Cody Eakin Unassisted Goal, 2-2 Tie
When the buzzer sounded, the Avs and Stars were tied at 2.
The period opened strong for the Avs, EJ in particular looking like he was ready for redemption after that derpy bounce.
One thing I noticed early on in the second was that the Benns and Alex Goligoski were sticking close to Matt Duchene, doing a decent job of neutralising him any time he started to build up momentum.
A minute and a half in, we had to wince and suffer through another Avalanche power play as Jason Demers whacked Talbot upside the face with a high stick. (Talbot definitely didn't sell that one.)
The power play looked typical: lots of passing, stationary skaters, and difficulty keeping the puck in their own zone, including a cringeworthy giveaway by Iginla. It looked like every single pass on this power play led directly to a turnover and the Avs didn't manage a single shot on net. Fortunately the PP clock ran down before anything embarrassing happened.
The entire first five minutes of P2 went without a shot on net until Max Talbot got a very Max Talbot-style breakaway but was denied by Lindback.
Iginla took a slashing penalty near the six minute mark but the PK looked decent, including Calvin Pickard giving Tyler Seguin some glove love. I cannot overstate the sheer workhorse quality of Alex Tanguay on the penalty kill, for this shift and in general.
The teams jockeyed back and forth again, trading shots, including a nifty steal by Zach Redmond that led to a tag-team rush between he and Iginla. Lindback made the save, however. Tanguay got unlucky on a potential breakway shortly thereafter a he was caught offsides.
The second period was starting to look like it belonged all to Dallas, but the Avs got another look at the power play when Cody Eakin was called for boarding against Matt Duchene. Duchene took an awkward tumble into the boards but looked just fine afterward. He spent the power play on the bench, but then again, so did his whole line, as Coach Roy bizarrely played the Cliche/McLeod line for almost the entirety of the PP, which resulted in a lot of dipsy-doodling behind the net and not much else.
At some point around this time in the second, we noticed John Mitchell hadn't been back on the ice, though nobody had announced anything yet. Johnson broke up a Stars rush with about six minutes left, then Landeskog broke up the next. On the same shift, Landy made a nifty move off a shot block that led to a nice rush and later a great look from Tanguay.
Lindback faced a LOT of shots toward the end of the second, but he looked confident enough in net. Pickard on the other hand was getting relatively little action.
Dallas called a timeout as the period wound down and Vern Fiddler turned the puck over in a bad way, which led to a lurking, patient scoring chance for Duchene, but the shot was deflected.
At two minutes in, Tanguay scored a beauty of a goal, the period's only tally. Duchene and Barrie got the assists, and my what assists they were. That was some fancy passin' that led to Tanguay being left completely alone.
Tangs Buries One: 3-2 Avs
The Stars looked gassed in the last couple minutes of the second. The Avs by contrast looked feisty. To close the period, Duchene rushed the net and drew a penalty from Jordie Benn.
There wasn't a whole lot of time to build on the power play opportunity, especially with Antoine Roussel being all over Nick Holden like a bad rash.
At the buzzer, Avs were up 3-2.
To open the third, the Avalanche announced that John Mitchell was unlikely to return with a leg injury. This didn't come as a huge surprise given his disappearance midway through the second, but it was still awful news. The Avs opened the period on the power play.
Matt Duchene found the back of the net less than a minute in on a paint-peeling wrist shot from the point. We do love that ping! move when it actually goes in.
DUCHENE AWAKENS! 4-2 Avs
The crowd loved it when Landeskog laid a big hit on Trevor Daly and Duchene looked like he had fresh batteries. Not much later, he flew in from the neutral zone and ran at Lindback hard from the right side, the same position where he scored earlier. Unfortunately Lindback was awake for that one, gloving it.
The Avs returned to the power play on a tripping call against Jason Demers on Nathan MacKinnon, which looked a little iffy in my opinion, but hey, you take what you can get, right? MacKinnon got tripped up but bounced back up a-okay. Ten seconds later, the Stars' Goligoski lobbed the puck up and out of play from behind the goal line, which meant 1:50 of 5-on-3 time for the Avs after he was whistled for delay of game.
This big powe rplay saw the Stars without two veteran defensemen, just the sort of guys you like to see playing on the penalty kill. They were both in the box when Landeskog launched one past Lindback from right up in front courtesy of some great passing from Tanguay and MacKinnon.
Second (!!!) Powerplay Goal: Avs 5-2
The third period belonged to the Avalanche, who peppered Lindback with shots. Duchene flew up and into the defensive action, Hejda made a couple of nifty poke checks, and EJ continued to shine like he has all season. Meanwhile, Ryan O'Reilly and Zach Redmond picked some pucks off at the blue line and limited the Stars to only six shots in the first 13 minutes of the period.
At five minutes remaining, the Avs were up 5-2.
Cody McLeod took a penalty for hooking Erik Cole, but the Stars got little traction on the power play. Pickard came up with saves that looked easy and his defense prevented the Stars from screening him, keeping the lane nice and open. Briere got a nice shorthanded look but it was blocked by Klingberg. Johnson seemed like he was everywhere on this PK and gave the puck the final clear.
Highlander looked a little salty for the rest of the game, and it erupted when the Stars were attempting a late rally with less than a minute left. Cody Mac and Antoine Roussel shared words, then shared fists. Both were dealt a fighting major and a roughing minor and spent the end of the game in the dressing room.
The Avalanche didn't let up until the final buzzer blew, tossing shots at Lindback and keeping the puck in until the final horn.
Final score: Avalanche 5, Stars 2.
MHH Three Stars
1. Alex Tanguay with 1G, 2A, and a broken face.
2. Tyson Barrie with 3A.
3. Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene share joint honours with 1G and 1A apiece.
Calvin Pickard nets an honourable mention. While he didn't see a lot of action this game, chances are Roy will be calling him up after tonight and telling him to trade in his motel key for a long-term lease.
Intriguing Stats/Bits & Pieces
The Avalanche outshot Dallas on the power play tonight 19 to 1.
Erik Johnson said, "Injury? What injury?" and lead the team with 22:56 minutes on the ice.
Briere and Duchene were 67% and 62% on the dots this game, which helped the Avs out in a bad way, considering how badly they've struggled with face-offs.
Hejda and Redmond both blocked three shots each tonight.
The Avalanche didn't let Tyler Seguin win a single face-off tonight.
We'll keep you up to date on the status of John Mitchell.
BONUS HIGHLIGHT: MacKinnon casually catches the puck on his stick, hands it off to ref.
SECOND EXTRA BONUS HIGHLIGHT: Tyson Barried.
The Avs host the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00PM MST on December 1st. The Habs are currently 16-7-2. We may or may not see the return of Semyon Varlamov between the pipes.