The Avalanche start off this road trip in the city of brotherly love, in search of their first win streak of the season.
The game started out a bit sloppy, or at least conservatively for these two teams with lots of turnovers, lots of chip ins, and not a lot of opportunities for either side. The best chance early on came when Nathan MacKinnon fired the puck off the endboards and out in front of the Flyers net, where Gabriel Landeskog tried to tuck the rebound past Steve Mason. Mason made a sliding pad save and play continued. The Avalanche were first to establish a long shift in the offensive zone, with Nate Guenin and Tyson Barrie playing some very effective pitch and catch at the point. Both defensemen were engaged and provided good support for their forwards. At one point Guenin received the puck on the right point, walked the blue-line a few steps and set Tyson Barrie up for a great onetimer with a perfect pass. Barrie unloaded on the puck but hit the crossbar.
The loud "PING" seemed to wake both teams up a bit, and the pace of the game increased considerably. There was good back and forth hockey for several minutes, before the Flyers err well... Brayden Schenn, had an absolutely dominant period in the Avs zone. Schenn was skating circles through the Avalanche zone, dishing the puck out, taking it back, and wreaking havoc for Avalanche defenders anywhere he went. Schenn eventually beat Zach Redmond with a nice move on his way to the net, and Redmond took a hooking penalty trying to slow him up.
The Flyers were very, very effective moving the puck on the power play but it was all really funny looking. Three times on the power play Flyers defenseman Mark Streit did a stationary backhand spin-pass at the blueline without pressure, it was bizarre, completely unnecessary, and I found myself hoping that Matt Duchene would blow by him at full speed with a real spin move later in the game. If it happens, you can thank me. Berra made a couple of good saves during the power play, but didn't look particularly good making them. The first hit Berra high in the chest and seemed to stun the goalie, the second, when Berra made a stop with the pad, then failed to cover the puck and found himself sprawled out on his stomach with his stick extended reaching for it. Luckily an Avalanche player recovered the puck and got it out of the zone. Despite some good chances the Avs survived the Flyers power play.
The game tightened back up a bit at even strength, until the 5:00 mark, when Matt Duchene went sniffing around the Flyers crease. It was a pretty harmless play, but Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz freaked out and tackled Duchene into the net, knocking it off it's moorings. The Avalanche earned a power play and hopefully, learned a lesson about why it's always good to get someone near the net. The first minute of the Avalanche's power play was brutal, as they struggled to establish real possession and had zero scoring opportunities, but the second half saw some jump. First Duchene at the top of the circles sent the puck to O`Reilly at the goal-line who made a very nice pass to Jamie McGinn buzzing by the front of the net. McGinn got a piece of the puck out of the air, but Mason made the save. Moments after the power play expired, with his linemates headed off the ice, Duchene threw on his superhero cape and stick handled through 4 Flyers defenseman to put a few shots on Mason. Duchene can stickhandle in a phone booth and his skills were on full display there.
With just a few seconds left in the period Nathan MacKinnon went chasing Luke Schenn and a puck into the endboards. MacKinnon reached out and gave a light push into Schenn's back. It wasn't a hard check, honestly, he barely touched Schenn, but regardless, even a little touch like that, can turn into something really dangerous at that speed and that spot on the ice.
Here's a look at Schenn's collision with the boards courtesy of hockey gif guru @myregularface
Look. I get how bad that looks at full speed, I totally understand calling the 5:00 penalty in real time, absolutely. What I really take exception to here is the way that the officials handled MacKinnon. The MOMENT MacKinnon touches him you can see him reach out and go "AHHHH NOOO What did I do!!!???" Then MacKinnon doesn't fight back or escalate with the number of Flyers who jump him to defend their teammate. The refs reaction? To grab MacKinnon by the sweater and slam him into the boards harder than MacKinnon touched Schenn. MacKinnon is a young, skill player, who plays a clean game and has already earned a good reputation in this league at a young age. He should get more benefit of the doubt, and better treatment from the officials than that.
We learned from Altitude in the second period that Nathan MacKinnon was given a 2:00 boarding penalty (the correct call) by the nearest official, before it was upgraded to a 5:00 penalty by another official who was further away . The Flyers were quick to capitalize on the penalty as Claude Giroux sniped the puck past Reto Berra, off the far post and in with just 2.7 seconds left in the period. Yuck.
The Avs came into the second period with 4:00 minutes left to kill on MacKinnon's boarding penalty, and boy would the Flyers make them pay for it. The Flyers possessed the puck in the Avs zone for almost the entire 4:00, moved the puck well, and fired plenty of pucks on net. Lecalvalier in particular had a number of good one-timers from up high. With 1:20 left on the penalty, Claude Giroux sent the puck down low to Wayne Simmonds at the goal-line. Erik Johnson left way too big of a gap, and the Flyers forward skated out in front of the Avalanche net uncontested and slid the puck 5-hole on Reto Berra. 2-0 bad guys.
The Avalanche killed of the remaining minute of the penalty, but the man-disadvantage didn't stop there, as the Flyers kept pushing the pace and had another near 2 minutes of possession in the Avs' zone. Seriously, the Avalanche did not have one meaningful possession in this period for the first 6:00 of the period.
Halfway through the period the Avalanche got their first good chance when Zach Redmond grabbed a rebound off a broken play up high. He responded with a nice wrist shot, hard and labeled for the top corner, but Mason made the save. The game settled down for a few moments, and the Avalanche looked like they were gaining a foothold again, but then Brayden Schenn had another outstanding shift in the Avs' zone. With just under 9:00 left in the period his line took over in the Avs zone and peppered the net with dangerous shots, finally with Berra out of position after a great save, Matt Read was able to center the puck for Schenn who sent it into a wide open net. That's the dagger, the nail in the coffin. 3-0 Flyers.
Now I'll be honest with you folks, this recap is about to get a bit less detailed. I have delicious dinner here in front of me, and unless the Avalanche start to erase that defecit, I'm going to eat a little more of it and type a little less. At any rate, back to the hockey. Giroux and Voracek are two really good NHL players, and they showed it, with several good chances in the Avs zone on another dominant Flyers' shift.
With 6:00 left in the period Jarome Iginla finally got his first fight of the season, trying to spark his team by taking on Brayden Schenn. The obvious mismatch went really poorly for Schenn, who went to the box with a few bruises on the head and what looked to be an injured hand from landing one punch off Iginla's helmet.
Renowned piece of human garbage Cooke impersonator Zac Rinaldo took his next shift as an opportunity to go headhunting for Nathan MacKinnon. He cross checked MacKinnon not once, not twice, but three separate times, then cross checked Landeskog away from the play for good measure. Cody McLeod quickly joined the fray and gave Rinaldo a push away from the play which resulted in a 2:00 penalty from the officials. You've got to be kidding me. On the ensuing penalty kill, Nate Guenin smacked a flyers forward in the face with his stick and gave the Flyers a two man advantage. The Flyers once again moved the puck well, while Nick Holden was a disaster. First losing the puck unprovoked and letting it dribble through the crease, then missing an assignment and running into his fellow defenseman while the Claude Giroux scored the Flyer's 4th goal of the night.
As the horn sounded at the end of the period, Everberg whacked a puck towards the Flyers net and was swarmed by three Flyers players along the boards. Wayne Simmonds was particularly irate and did a lot of yelling at Everberg, then at the refs, and then skated by the Avalanche bench flipping them the bird over and over. With their team up 4-0, the officials decided it would be ok to give their opponents a power play for the unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Avs failed to register a shot on their power play as usual. Moving on.
After the power play the Avs 4th line got some good pressure on the forecheck in the Flyers zone. Cliche and McLeod did a great job of creating a loose puck, which Max Talbot buried deep in the Flyers net with a massive slapshot. Great shot, the Avs first of the period, and it found the back of the net. On a lost night at least Talbot could get a feel good goal in his old barn.
Suddenly the Avs started showing some serous life in this game. They were passing well, moving into the Flyers zone well, and peppering Mason with shots. Holy score effects Batman! 6:30 into the period Dennis Everberg won a puck battle in the neutral zone (of course he did) and got the puck into the offensive zone (like he always does) by making a slick pass to Tyson Barrie with speed. On the 2-on-1 Barrie passed out wide to Alex Tanguay who sniped one over Mason's glove and off the farside post.
The Flyers didn't take their first shot on net until 8:30 into the period and were outshot 10-1 when the Avs got a power play midway through the period. The Avs struggled to get much going on the power play though and actually seemed to lose the momentum they had worked so hard to take back. Zac Rinaldo got a breakaway off bad bounce for the Avalanche, but Reto Berra made the stop. Rinaldo opted for a wristshot, which was an odd choice. Running over the goalie, elbowing someone, or generally being a piece of garbage are more comfortable moves for him on the breakaway. Maybe next time Zac.
Just to make this game full on crazy-pants, Zach Remond got on the board halfway through the period to bring the Avs within 1. Max Talbot made a great play along the boards to separate his man from the puck, then Redmond made a very smart pinch, took the puck, deked, waited, and scored. Beauty.
The Avs kept pressing hard as the period went on, and eventually got a bad call in their favor with 2:50 seconds left in the game, when Alex Tanguay snuck in behind the Flyers defense and fell over his own feet. Coburn was called for holding, and the Avalanche went to the power play. With the net empty the Avalanche dominated the Flyers 6 on 4 and did absolutely everything but score, Tyson Barrie and Matt Duchene were especially dangerous for the duration of the power play, moving the puck constantly and assaulting Mason in his crease. The Avs did everything they could in the third period, firing 21 shots on net, and caught the Flyers in total SOG, finishing 39-27 but couldn't find the 4th goal to finish climbing out of the enormous hole they dug for themselves in the second period.
People will undoubtably be upset and blame this game on officiating, but the cold hard truth is that the Avalanche were not good enough when the game was close. They started off ok, playing relatively even hockey with the Flyers, but they let the MacKinnon penalty derail their whole game and played an abysmal 2nd period. The Avs looked good in the third period, but it's important to remember that there are two teams on the ice, and one of them was up 4-0. Do you think that team eased up a bit? I sure do, and it contributed, in a big way, to the Avs comeback. Score effects. At any rate, the Avs power play 5v4 was an absolute mess AGAIN , and they lost their 12th game out of the 16 so far. I'm not going to give that a silver lining, sorry.
MHH Three Stars
NOTE: I wrote these when we got down 4-0 and decided to stick with them.
1. TIE: My dinner from Edzo's Burger Shop. Turkey burger with stuffing, mashed potatoes, orange and cranberry >real Thanksgiving. Also the Power Rangers gifs in the GDT. Thank you Randy and SteveHouse
2. Brad Stuart - The Flyers did not register a single shot with Stuart on the ice.
3. Score effects - You da real MVP
Honorable Mentions: Ok here's the real ones: 1. Max Talbot - his best of the season. 2. 3rd Line = Best line 3. Tyson Barrie - he was just an animal in the 3rd period, never stopped moving his feet or the puck.
The Avalanche head to Long Island to visit the Islanders on Tuesday night at 7:00 EST.