The game opened with a moment of silence for the recently departed Jean Béliveau so we'll take one here in the preview as well.
Some nights it takes a long while for either team to establish a flow inside of a hockey game. This was definitely one of those nights. The first 2:30 of this game took ages as a number of offsides plays led to whistle after whistle after whistle. The Flames had their first chance of the night off what looked like a relatively harmless shot from the point. The puck deflected off at least two bodies on its way to the net before bouncing off the nearside post and out the other side of the net. The loud ping seemed to wake up the Avalanche forwards, especially their bottom six, as they went on to have a long couple of shifts in the Calgary zone.
First up the line of Danny Briere, Max Talbot and Thomas Vincour put on a cycling clinic in the offensive zone, working hard along the halfboards and in the corners to force a number of turnovers and keep the puck in the zone. With Danny Briere controlling the puck deep in the zone Vincour switched for Sgarbossa and Talbot for McLeod. Sgarbossa had a good chance in the slot but couldn't get the shot through, McLeod knocked some bodies around and forechecked well, and instead of coming off the ice Danny Briere continued a dominant, monster shift in the offensive zone for what seemed like 2:00. Finally Briere went to the bench for Nick.... Holden... dun Dun DUN!!!!
I hate to harp on a guy who's struggling as much as Nick Holden is, but if he was trying to work his way out of the coaching staff's doghouse, this was not a good start. Just when the Avalanche started to gain some momentum in this game Nick Holden threw a crosscheck at Dennis Wideman in front of the Flames net away from the puck. Wideman went down easily and the officials called Holden for interference. He looked very sad on his way to the penalty box.
The Avalanche killed the penalty with relative ease and allowed just one shot to the Calgary power play squad. Afterwards the MaKGinlaSkog line went back to work in the offensive zone with a long but toothless offensive shift. Despite a few good shifts from the Avalanche though, this game was still very "blah." Lots of icings, offsides, and general whistles meant that neither team was able to really get skating or establish their pace. Halfway through the period Zach Redmond caught a Calgary stick in the face, and the refs were quick to blow the whistle for.... another offsides.... *sigh.
Offsides. Whistle. Icing. Whistle. Deflected over the glass. Whistle. Offsides. Whistle. Faceoff. Whistle. Redo faceoff. Whistle. Why are we at center ice? Whistle. UGHHHHH Whistle. Offsides? No, just a for funsies whistle.
2:40 left in the period the Flames have their first real offensive chance, a nice give and go pass to Johnny Gaudreau who tried to beat Varlamov on the right side. It wasn't a really dangerous chance, but the doldrums of this first period meant that it was Varlamov's best save of the period. I don't even remember Hiller's best save because there haven't been any real good chances (just looked and it's Ramo in net, welcome to the most boring period ever folks). Between 1:49 and 1:20 the refs blew the play dead 4 separate times despite no goals, penalties or excitement.
While the Avalanche were still sleeping from the first period, the Flames came out flying through the neutral zone and quickly established a strong forecheck in the Avs zone. After multiple failed clearing attempts (a theme for this squad) Nate Guenin was caught racing for the puck at the blueline and pulled down a Flames forward from behind. Just 23 seconds into the power play, on their first zone entry the Flames made a little magic happen. Johnny Gaudreau sent a beautiful pass cross ice to a pinching Dennis Wideman, who picked the puck out of the air to put it past Semyon Varlamov and give the Flames the early second period lead. It was an amazing play by both Flames players, especially Wideman to grab that puck out of midair while on the move, but Wideman also made it all the way into the Avalanche crease without being touched, harassed, or otherwise defended by an Avalanche player. That part is unacceptable.
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The Avs were quickly given their own power play and came close to matching the Flames tally. The Avalanche struggled to get their powerplay into the Flames Halfway through the Avs power play O'Reilly had a beautiful redirection high on Karri Ramo, but the goalie deflected the puck over the top of the net. The Avs cycled the puck back around to the point where Tyson Barrie fired a low shot on net at Danny Briere and some other traffic in front. The puck deflected off Engelland's stick and over the head of Danny Briere and Karri Ramo. Briere batted at the puck and Ramo swung around to try and grab the puck with his glove but it made it over his head and into the net. Just when this game was getting exciting we were forced to sit through the longest Toronto goal review of the century. Only to be disappointed by a no-goal call. Sad as it is, the folks in Toranna were probably right about that one, as it looks like Danny Briere punched that one over Ramo's head and in.
Nearly 8:00 into period the Avalanche would head back to the penalty kill when Tyson Barrie was flagged for breaking the worst rule in hockey when Barrie's harmless looking backhand chip up the glass missed high into the crowd.
With 7:07 on the clock the Avalanche's top line was caught icing the puck after a long shift. They tried to sneak off the ice, but the officials caught them, and much to Calgary's regret, sent them back to the faceoff dot. The Flames won the faceoff and started to cycle around the tired Avs line, but then things went wrong for the Flames when Matt Duchene redirected a Calgary pass from the left side halfboards up ice to his linemate Ryan O`Reilly. O'Reilly took two strides, passed back to Duchene and took off up the right side while Duchene one touched the puck back to O'Reilly on the move. As O'Reilly moved further to the outside, he drew the attention of three Calgary defenders, leaving Matt Duchene alone to drive the Calgary net. Once all three Calgary players were within a stick length, O'Reilly slowed up and slid a tape-to-tape pass cross ice to Matt Duchene who held the puck, delayed half a second, and snapped it high over a sprawling Ramo. 9-90-9-90-9. The give-and-give-and-give-and-give-and-go. That absolute beauty of a goal came at the end of an 11-0 run of shots for the Avalanche after the Flames power play goal.
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The Avalanche kept the pressure on and with just over 5:00 to play, Michael Sgarbossa sprung Zach Redmond for a breakout down the left wing. Remond fired a floating backhand pass into some serious traffic in front of the Calgary net where the puck bounced off a body and in. Why is Zach Redmond good at scoring these flukey goals? He's not really. He just always, always, ALWAYS puts the puck on net when there are bodies in front, and that leads to good things. The puck deflected off the shin of Nick Holden and after a much quicker review from Toronto, was called a good goal. Hopefully that will help Holden shake off some of his recent struggles. Stick taps to Michael Sgarbossa for his first official NHL point on the goal and for Cody McLeod, who wont get a point, but helped contribute to the mass of humanity in front of Ramo. At that point the Avalanche had 13 consecutive shots on net and 2 consecutive goals to show for it.
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The Avs very strong 2nd period was tarnished a bit by the final 2:00. The Avs got hemmed into their own zone badly, and forced Varlamov to make a couple good saves after not seeing the puck since very early in the period. The best save came on an absolute bomb of a slapshot from Mark Giordano. Landeskog also blocked a huge slapshot with his chest while sliding on his side. He went laboring to the bench with what was surely a bad bruise. Hockey fans everywhere breathed a deep sigh of relief as he came back out for his next shift while women (and men) everywhere breathed a deep sigh of relief when the puck didn't hit him in the face.
The final frame started with a looooooong conversation between the refs and each of the coaches. Not something you see often and curious considering the overall "good clean nature" of this game so far.
The Avalanche didn't take long to lose their lead and control of the game with it. Under 2-on-1 forechecking pressure deep in his own zone, Tyson Barrie tried to drop the puck to Matt Duchene instead of trying to beat a man or chip the puck out. The miscue from Barrie went straight to the stick of Sean Monahan, who quickly passed to David Jones near the left side faceoff dot. Jones found Glencross across the ice taking advantage of a soft spot in the breakdown and Glencross snapped the puck home to tie the game 2-2.
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14:19 Semyon Varlamov came out well above the top of his crease to challenge Kris Russell pinching in from the point. Varlamov made a HUGE highlight reel glove save while dropping into butterfly and falling forward. He is one exciting, athletic goaltender when he has the confidence to really challenge the shooter.
12:30 Landeskog took a hard hit while streaking up the left side boards. He and a Calgary player got into a slashing match, but the officials let play continue. Fired up and angry, Landeskog crashed into the zone, took a pass from Nathan MacKinnon on his backhand and quickly pulled it to the forehand before handcuffing Ramo with a good shot. Ramo couldn't find the puck as it bounced high off him and into the corner.
Starting with the Landeskog sequence this game really opened up, with both teams trading end-to-end rushes. Neither team could get any quality chances off the rush, and most players were forced out to the sides, limited to bad angle shots from far away. But then something spectacular happened. I won't describe the goal by Alex Tanguay, I'll just leave it here to speak for itself:
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The Avalanche really switched into full "prevent" defense after the Tanguay goal and it allowed the Flames to start tilting the ice back in their favor. They pulled the goalie with just under 2:00 left, entered the zone uncontested, cycled the puck, established a net presence, and fired a shot from the point. The Avs really rolled over and let them have all of that, including a massive screen in front of Varlamov. Varly never saw the puck and the Flames tied the game 3-3.
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In the final minute Jarome Iginla had 3 great shots on net with a chance to win the game back in his old barn. Blocked once by Brodie and twice by Ramo he couldn't find twine.
The Avalanche were a disaster in overtime from the moment the puck dropped. This team, that was so dominant in overtime last season, so explosive on offense, looked like a bunch of peewees out against a 1970's Russian Olympic Squad. It was awful. The moment the puck dropped Sean Monahan sped up the ice at a group of Avalanche players who seemed unaware that the game had started. He made a great move and was stonewalled by a brilliant Varlamov. Here's the gif courtesy of @myregularface
Monahan would not be denied, however. He scored the OT winner just a minute later as the Avalanche scrambled around in front of their net, hopelessly swinging at a puck Varlamov thought was in his pads. What a stupid, dumb, frustrating goal to give up at the end of a game like this.
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Avs give up a lead. Lose points they desperately needed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
MHH Three Stars:
1. Ryan O'Reilly - 2 assists and a great night for the Avs forward. He had two near goals of his own and was a driving force offensively for his line. He seemed to draw a lot of defenders tonight before dishing the puck to his open linemates.
2. Alex Tanguay - Dat goal
3. Danny Briere - Great all night. Generated offense almost every time he touched the ice.
Honorable Mentions: Duchene and Johnson. Both were their usual great selves. Johnson especially.
Next Up: The Avalanche fly to Winnipeg in desperate need of points. Puck drops at 8:00 PM EST, 6:00 PM MST