On paper, these were two evenly-matched teams. The Philadelphia Flyers brought a 14-16-8 record into the Pepsi Center to take on the 13-15-8 Colorado Avalanche. One of the Altitude keys to the game in the pregame was "35+ shots" for the Avalanche. Coming off of a 16-shot performance in St. Louis, that would certainly be a welcome sight. The Avs' inability to generate shots is an ongoing storyline going back a few seasons, so as the calendar turns to 2015, let's all hope that they can finally get that turned around.
The Flyers came out with some good pressure right away, forcing Semyon Varlamov to make a save on a one-timer from the short side just 30 seconds into the game. The Avs countered with a couple of rushes that ended with quick shots, but Steve Mason was up to the task.
Scary moment just a minute and a half into the game when Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto lost his footing going into the corner to the right of the Flyers net. Daniel Briere's skate looked like it caught Del Zotto in the ear and cheek, but fortunately Del Zotto
was not cut managed to get by only needing stitches to the neck, and it wasn't more serious. It's a dangerous game, folks.
The teams settled in for what would be a choppy 1st period. With 14:24 left, Cody McLeod decided he wanted to take on the entire Flyers bench. McLeod definitely started the scrum with a little punch to the back of a Flyers player, but somehow the Avs wound up with the game's first power play. McLeod was sent off for roughing, but Philly was assessed with both roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct minors. Tyson Barrie had a pair of great chances after Erik Johnson skated the puck right up the middle of the ice into the Flyers zone, but both shots went wide. Later in the power play, a pretty passing play set up Brad Stuart in the slot, but alas, Stuart had the puck roll off of his stick. The Avs wound up with two shots on goal but no goals on the PP.
Maxime Talbot was penalized for interfering with Claude Giroux with 11:02 remaining. The Flyers passed the puck around the outside for about 30 seconds before finding Jakub Voracek wide open at the top of the left circle. Voracek, the NHL's leading scorer, sent a slap shot over Varlamov's glove to give Philly a 1-0 lead at 10:14.
Philly went back on the PP less than a minute later when John Mitchell shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. This PP only lasted 1:18, as RJ Umberger was called for holding the stick in the offensive zone. Some brutal defensive zone play during the 4-on-4 led to a couple of Flyers chances, but Varly stood tall. Jarome Iginla had the Avs' only chance on their short power play, but he missed the net on a partial breakaway.
With 4:36 remaining, the Avs went back on the power play when Voracek was called for hooking. The Avs would only generate one shot on goal on the PP, and it did not go in the net. The Avs finished the first period 0-3 on the PP.
With 1:38 left, McLeod took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone. The Flyers' best chance came when Wayne Simmonds walked out untouched from behind the net, but Varly denied him. At the end of the first period, the Flyers were ahead 1-0 in goals and 10-8 in shots.
The Avs killed off the 22 seconds that remained on McLeod's penalty to start the period. The rest of the period flowed along much more smoothly than the first.
Our first penalty of the period came with 14:12 remaining. Borna Rendulic was called for interference, putting Philly back on the PP for the 4th time. That was the Avs' second offensive zone penalty of the game. Some good work by the Avs' penalty killers kept the Flyers to the outside. Philly was only able to manage one shot on the PP, a slapshot from the point that Varlamov easily handled. 12 minutes to go in the second period, and Philly was 1-4 on the PP.
Play opened up for the next few minutes, with both teams trading chances. Philly missed a wide open net on a rebound, followed by Matt Duchene streaking down the right side for a chance that Mason stopped. Duchene followed up that rush by sprinting back on the back-check to keep a Flyers rush from developing into a scoring chance. Some solid work by the 4th line then resulted in the Avs' first goal at 10:47. Nate Guenin kept the puck in at the blue line, then fired a shot that bounced off of a couple of Flyers and into the net. Marc-Andre Cliche and Maxime Talbot assisted on Guenin's 1st goal of the year. With 9:13 left in the second period, the score was 1-1. The goal broke a stretch of 137:43 without an Avs goal, and it also raised money for the Longmont Humane Society.
Patrick Roy shuffled the lines in the second. With about 6 minutes left, a line of Gabe Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly, and Borna Rendulic took the ice, with Nick Holden and Brad Stuart out on defense. Some slick puck movement found Rendulic open in the slot, and he fired a shot past Mason at 14:17. Rendulic's first NHL goal was assisted by Landeskog and Stuart. Just a great play all around. Congrats, rookie! 5:43 to go, and the Avs had a 2-1 lead.
Varly wasn't tested often in the period, but he had to make some big saves. Simmonds had a breakaway with 2:30 left, and Sean Couturier had a point blank shot with 1:30 left. Varly was up to the task on both. At the end of the second period, the Avs led 2-1 in goals and 19-18 in shots. The Avs outshot the Flyers 11-8 in the period.
The 3rd period opened with some heavy pressure from the Flyers. Philly had the Avs pinned in their defensive zone for nearly three full minutes. This sequence predictably ended with a goal by Vincent Lecavalier on a slap shot from the point at 2:52. This tied the game 2-2 with 17:08 to go in regulation.
The teams traded chances for the next few minutes, but both goalies stood tall. With 11:56 remaining, the Avs took their 5th penalty (and 3rd in the offensive zone). John Mitchell was the culprit this time, going off for a wholly unnecessary holding infraction. Just as it looked like the Avs were going to kill off the penalty, Claude Giroux took a drop pass at his own blue line, skated through all four Avs penalty killers, and buried a shot stick side on Varlamov at 10:00 of the 3rd period. The Avs checked Giroux about as often as I check my fantasy hockey team on that play. 10 minutes to go, and the Flyers had a 3-2 lead.
With 8:23 left, the Avs went on the power play after a dangerous, dirty play. Braydon Coburn decided to stick out his leg and go knee-on-knee on Alex Tanguay at the Flyers blue line. Coburn was assessed a minor penalty for tripping. Fortunately, Tanguay was not hurt, and he remained on the ice to start the PP. Ryan O'Reilly missed a wide-open net 40 seconds into the PP, but Jarome Iginla made sure that the Avs would not go ohfer on the PP. He buried a one-timer from the left circle for his 9th goal of the season, assisted by Tanguay and Nick Holden at 12:48. With 7:12 to go, we had a tie game at 3-3. Both teams finished the night 1-5 on the PP.
Both teams had several great chances the rest of the way, none better than a rush from Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon could not bury the pass from Duchene, though, due to a great stick check by Couturier. Nobody could score the game-winner in regulation, so the game headed to overtime with the score tied at 3-3. The Avs outshot the Flyers 29-26 in regulation.
The Avs big guns decided to play in OT. MacKinnon, Duchene, and Landeskog all had great chances. A great little back-and-forth passing play between O'Reilly and Tyson Barrie led to an O'Reilly slap shot that found the back of the net with 19.9 seconds remaining. Avs win 4-3!
Talbot - Duchene - MacKinnon
Landeskog - O'Reilly - Briere
Tanguay - Mitchell - Iginla
McLeod - Cliche - Rendulic
Hejda - Johnson
Guenin - Barrie
Stuart - Holden
While the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all but a pipe dream for this season, the Avs need their big guns to play like the stars that they can be after most of them went scoreless in December. Everyone contributed to the win, and O'Reilly, Duchene, Landeskog, and MacKinnon all showed some signs of life. This was a game between two very evenly-matched teams, and hey, the Avs outshot a team, 33-29. It was a nice way to end 2014.
Avs 3 Stars
1st Star: Tyson Barrie - Assisted on the game-winner, and he was all over the ice in the offensive zone all night.
2nd Star: Jarome Iginla - Game-tying goal in the 3rd period, and he had a few other good chances that just missed.
3rd Star: Borna Rendulic - 1st NHL goal, played big minutes in the 3rd. Not bad for a guy that was on the 4th line when the game began.
Edmonton Oilers @ Colorado Avalanche
Friday, Jan. 2, 2015
7 PM MST, Altitude
Happy new year, folks. Thanks to all of the contributors at MHH for everything you do. You guys and gals rock.