Welcome back folks. After weeks of waiting to see our Avalanche back in action we finally get to.... wait a little more. As the Buffalo Sabres score a tying goal against the Boston Bruins with just 52 seconds left in the game. So now we'll be waiting a little bit longer for the completely irrelevant Sabres to finish their game against a team with a stranglehold over most of the Eastern Conference. Thank you NBC for deciding that game is more important than the league's best comeback story taking on a team tumbling through the Western Conference Standings and barely holding onto a playoff spo..... What's that? The Sabres scored 22 seconds in on a beauty of a goal and we're not going to miss any of the Avs game? Well ok then.
New before puck drop is that Max Talbot will be the healthy scratch due to the birth of his child (psssh big deal). Roy is going with 7D and 11F in his absence, likely rotating Bordeleau and Cliche with one of Duchene, MacKinnon, Landeskog, or Stastny.
This game started off a bit tentative on both sides. Both teams took relatively short shifts and placed an emphasis on getting pucks deep. The Avs had the first great chance of the game when Marc Andre Cliche went flying up the left side boards with the puck. Patrick Bordeleau drove the net for a good screen and Cliche passed across ice to a pinching Jan Hejda all the way down at the low faceoff dot. The puck went wide, but the Avalanche seemed to pick up a little bit of momentum following the opportunity, as the majority of the next few minutes were spent in the Los Angeles Kings zone. The fun wouldn't last long though.
A few minutes later the Kings had a good chance off the rush, causing J.S. Giguere to bite on a fake shot to his right. Giguere over committed leaving the left side of his net wide open, the Kings surely would have scored on the ensuing wrap around attempt, but Paul Stastny made a sliding block to keep the score tied. The Kings on a puck battle in the corner and eventually cycled the puck back to the point where defensemen Roby Regehr hammered a shot past Giguere to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. There was some debate as to whether or not the puck deflected off MacKinnon on the way in, but either way Giguere wasn't square to the shot and left a big gap for that puck to find its way home.
On the next shift the Avalanche nearly tied the game back up with a nice onetime opportunity in the high slot. The puck beat Jones, the goalhorn sounded, but Ryan O'Reilly's shot dinged off the crossbar and we went to a commercial break. The Avalanche kept up the pressure on the Kings with a number of good shifts in the LA zone and the Kings responded by taking some significant liberties with the Avs forwards. The Avalanche finally earned their first power play of the night when Nathan MacKinnon was crosschecked into the Kings net. The Avalanche had a few good chances on the power play, including a scramble in the crease where Duchene and O'Reilly both tossed their arms up to celebrate. On review the puck disappeared into Jones pads and was never seen again. Still 1-0 Kings.
I can only assume that the Avalanche were upset, because the power play was an absolute clinic from that point forward. Matt Duchene had an excellent opportunity on the right side and dinged the puck off the near side post. Moments later the Avalanche cycled the puck to the point and made a tic-tac-toe play from the left side point to the right faceoff dot and back to the slot for Jamie McGinn who wound up annnnd whiffed it. The puck bounced off Jamie McGinn and over to Ryan O'Reilly who pulled the puck across his body before tucking it past Jones to tie the game.
In a half hearted attempt to justify Rivalry Night, Cody McLeod got into some extracurriculars with Drew Doughty, but the officials were quick to break up the confrontation.
With 5:40 left in the period Patrick Bordeleau took some serious abuse from both the Kings and the officials. First he was pinned against the boards and held by Dwight King 6 feet from the puck. Bordeleau was held so long that he put his arms up and looked at the officials for a call. Moment later he took a brutal slash to the leg from Jordan Nolan. Nolan actually hit him so hard that he started to limp around the ice, no call. No help from the refs? Bordeleau did a little self policing and nailed Jordan Nolan with a hard, legal check in the corner. Nolan whined to the officials before heading to the bench.
On the next shift Avalanche fans were treated to some pure, unadulterated dominance by Matt Duchene. Duchene identifying a low defensive pairing for the Kings went on the attack down the right side boards and carried the puck behind the Kings net. Duchene popped out around the left side shielding the puck from Tanner Pearson, then spun and sent a puck to the crease for PA Parenteau to tap in. This might have been the easiest goal PA Parenteau has ever scored, the Avs winger didnt even have to move his stick as Matt Duchene's pass glided straight to the tape of Parenteau's stick. 2-1 good guys.
On the next shift Gabriel Landeskog took an undisciplined holding penalty in the offensive zone, giving the Kings their first power play opportunity of the night. The Avalanche killed the penalty with relative ease, including a hilarious sequence where John Mitchell, attempting to skate the puck through the neutral zone on a 2-on-2, tripped over nothing and struggled to get up. I thought for sure a blade had popped out of his skate the way he went down, but he was able to regain his feet. No bambi on ice tonight. Patrick Roy was aggressive with his personnel decisions on the penalty kill, putting Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly on the ice for the last 21 seconds of the kill, in hopes of generating an offensive opportunity as Landeskog came out of the box. Roy was rewarded with a 1-on-1 chance for Matt Duchene, who nearly beat the Kings defenseman with a between the legs deke. Unfortunately, the puck bounced on Duchene and he was only able to get a weak backhand on net.
The rest of the period ticked by without much action. The Kings did have one strange opportunity with a harmless looking floater of a wrist shot. The puck seemed to surprise Giguere as it dinged off the outside of the post. The Avalanche played a very good first period, and while the shots only read 8-7 Avs, they out-possessed and out-chanced the Kings by a lot more than that.
The 2nd Period had a rough, rough start. The Kings had a nice opportunity right off the opening draw, but Giguere made the save on Dustin Brown. Moments late Brown passed the puck out front to Jarrett Stoll who easily tapped the puck past J.S. Giguere to tie the game. The goal was the result of a major defensive breakdown by the Avalanche, where Ryan Wilson was caught chasing Brown to the corner and Tyson Barrie simultaneously lost Stoll on the doorstep.
The Avalanche were given a chance to respond moments later when Nathan MacKinnon drew a high sticking penalty, but they failed to create anything on the power play. In fact, the LA Kings had the majority of chances on the power play, including a breakaway for Jeff Carter. After a poor zone entry the Andre Benoit lost an edge at the point and Kings took advantage sliding the puck to center ice for Jeff Carter to take on the breakaway. The puck rolled on Carter at the last second and he wasn't able to make much of a move on Giguere, who made the right pad save.
The Avalanche struggled to get much going until Paul Stastny had a 1-on-1 opportunity with Jake Muzzin. Stastny fired a hard wrister on net that squeaked through Martin Jones elbow and bounced down near the goal-line. Nathan MacKinnon went sprinting after the rebound but was hooked, held, and otherwise molested by Jared Stoll. The play resulted in a violent collision with the endboards for the rookie and an eventual save for the Kings goalie.
Looking for some retribution from the clean hit in the first period, Jordan Nolan skated halfway across the ice to raise his elbow over his shoulder and leap at Patrick Bordeleau. Bordeleau stopped and Nolan soared through the air past him, elbow raised, before running into the boards. Nolan was injured on the play and would head to the locker room. That's why you don't throw your body around recklessly Nolan, someone's going to end up hurt.
The Avalanche earned their third power play of the night when Jeff Carter and Matt Duchene were tangled up in the neutral zone. Carter's stick wrapped around Duchene and the Avs center looked to lose an edge as he tried to lean back against Carter. It probably shouldn't have been a penalty, but the Avalanche would take the power play all the same.
The Avs moved the puck well on their next power play and had a number of good chances when Jarrett Stoll broke his stick deep in the Kings zone. After a flurry around the Kings net the the puck deflected off Jones and over the glass. Towards the end of the power play the Avalanche absolutely dismantled the Kings penalty kill with a series of crisp tape to tape passes. Matt Duchene gained the zone and sent a pass cross ice to Ryan O'Reilly who slipped the pass through the legs of a Kings defender and to the stick of Jamie McGinn. McGinn would not be denied this time as he snapped the puck past Jones to give the Avalanche their second lead of the night.
The Kings continued to goon up the game in an attempt to get under the Avs skin, but the Avalanche would not be rattled. Take a guess at who one of their biggest offenders was? No really, guess? It was Dustin Brown, who sent the Avalanche back on the power play after running over J.S. Giguere in his crease and taking a goalie interference penalty. Paul Stastny gathered the puck up at the point and made a pass to Nathan MacKinnon along the goal line. MacKinnon took the puck and spun 180 degrees to try and slam it past Jones' left pad. The puck bounced on MacKinnon, but he was able to play the puck out of the air and get it on net. The puck bounced out sideways and deflected in off Andre Benoit. 4-2 for the Avalanche.
Sadly the second period lead would not last as the Avalanche gave up 2 goals in the last 4:18 of the period. The Kings cut the lead to one just a minute after the Avs power play goal when Anze Kopitar forced Giguere to move side to side in his crease, gathered up the rebound and tucked it past a sliding Giguere. Kopitar, the Kings most dangerous offensive player had his way with Ryan Wilson in the Avs zone on the goal. With just 1:07 left on the clock, Jeff Carter would tie the game when he tipped a Mike Richards shot in front of the net. The redirection was beautiful, as he sent the puck high and towards the post, but if Giguere was square to the original shot and sealed off the post it wouldn't have been a problem. You just can't allow a goal on the shortside from that angle, got to seal off the post.
The Avalanche couldn't let there 4:00 meltdown end there, however, and had to take a penalty to prevent another goal as they scrambled around in front of their own net. Cody McLeod would go to the box and leave the Kings with 1:35 on the power play to start the third period.
The Kings possessed the puck well during their power play, but the Avalanche did a good job of keeping them to the outside and denying high quality chances. Just as the power play ended Nick Holden was assessed a 2:00 boarding penalty after checking Mike Richards into the boards along the Avs half-boards. The Avalanche bench was justifiably upset with the penalty, as Richards spun just as Holden made contact, but you hit a guy in the numbers like that and most of the time the officials are going to make a call, regardless of the turn.
1:00 into the next penalty kill, John Mitchell had an easy chance to clear the puck out of the Avalanche zone, but inexplicably fell and lost an edge, losing the race to the puck. The Kings gained possession and cycled the puck up high. Jeff Carter fired a wrist shot toward the net which deflected off Andre Benoit and straight over Giguere's head. The puck bounced onto the goalline where Kopitar tapped it in to give the Kings a 5-4 lead. An unlucky blown tire for the Avs and an incredibly lucky bounce for the Kings and now we're chasing the Kings with just 16:00 on the clock. That's why you put these games away when you have the 2 goal lead.
Jamie McGinn looked to have the tying goal on his stick with 12:30 left in the period. Gabriel Landeskog drove the left side and slid the puck across the Jamie McGinn, but his one-timer was stopped by the pad of Martin Jones. From there the LA Kings opened up their Sochi 2014 playbook and committed to a full time neutral zone trap. The majority of the third period was filled with lots of neutral zone play with Avalanche chances coming few and far between. With 6:00 left in the period the Avalanche had their best chance to tie the game, as Nathan MacKinnon attempted a wrap around on his backhand side. The puck slid out through the crease to the stick of Gabriel Landeskog, who fired a shot top shelf blocker side on Jones. Jones made an astounding save stretching across the net and deflecting the puck with the underside of his blocker. Seriously, that one was just amazing.
Ryan O'Reilly had another good opportunity with 4:00 left to play when Matt Duchene slid the puck out to the high slot for his linemate. O'Reilly's shot on the backhand was deflected wide by Anze Kopitar. The Avalanche would keep pressing, however, and eventually drew another power play when Jamie McGinn gained the zone with speed and made a move on Matt Green. Green bit on the deke and stuck out his leg tripping McGinn and giving the Avalanche a power play with just over 3:00 left on the clock. The Avalanche possessed the puck well on the power play, but were unable to generate any dangerous offensive opportunities. With the goalie pulled the Avalanche possessed the puck for 3:00 straight in the Kings zone, but they kept the puck on the outside and only fired when they thought they could jam the puck under Jones' pad from the side of the net. With 11 seconds left on the clock, the Kings cleared the puck to Jeff Carter, who scored on the empty net to win the game 6-4.
Plain and simple, a 4-2 lead becomes a 6-4 loss after an absolutely disastrous final 24 minutes. It's the first game back and the Avalanche were missing Erik Johnson, Max Talbot, and Semyon Varlamov tonight, but you've got to wonder if games like this make Patrick Roy question the defense with just 7 more days until the NHL Trade Deadline. Without Johnson the Avalanche were a hot mess in their own zone
1. Matt Duchene (2A and the Avalanche's best forward)
2. Nathan MacKinnon (1 assist, extended his career point streak to 9 games)
3. Nick Holden (one of the only d-men that looked comfortable in his expanded role)
1. J.S. Giguere (Never came up with a big save to settle the game down, looked slow all night and let in a soft game tying goal on the short side post)
2. Ryan Wilson (-2 in 12:36 TOI. Aside from a good hit he looked absolutely lost)
Three way tie for third:
3. John Mitchell (Lost an edge on the game tying goal, couldnt possess the puck all night)
3. Department of Player Safety (Ridiculous Erik Johnson suspension)
3. Lady Talbot's Uterus (The PK and third line could have used him tonight. Cody McLeod is not the player he used to be and Talbot's ability to settle down the game would have been incredibly valuable at the end of the second)
The Avs continue their home stand against the Phoenix Coyotes Friday at 7:00 PM MST on Altitude Sports