Last game before the All Star Break and it's a big one as the Avs take on a tired Bruins squad desperate for two points in the Western Conference playoff race. In the words of Captain Tenneal.... "Get it on!"
The game opened tentatively, with the Bruins pushing hard to establish possession in the Avs zone and the Avs doing a good job of disrupting chances. While the Avs didn't take the puck into the offensive zone until the game's 4th minute, they also held Boston to just 1 shot on net in that stretch, a Dougie Hamilton slapshot from the point at 3:45 which was easily swallowed up by Varlamov.
The flow of the game started to even out more over the next five minutes, with both teams taking a few more shots on net. At the 13 minute mark, Patrice Bergeron drove the Avs zone hard and, with very, very limited contact from Jan Hejda skated straight through Semyon Varlamov, plowing him into the back of his own net and knocking the net off it's moorings. There was some minor contact from the Avs defenseman, but Bergeron made no attempt to stop or to avoid the Avs' goaltender and was rightfully charged with a goalie interference penalty.
The Avs woeful (27th) power play took the ice and was sent chasing the puck back in their own zone twice in the first 14 seconds of the man "advantage" *sigh. By the 1:00 mark on the power play the Avalanche were had not completed a pass in the offensive zone, and skill players had already been replaced by Cody McLeod. McLeod played over a minute on the power play, where the Avalanche did not register a shot on net. Seconds after the power play expired, McLeod made a great pass from behind the Bruins net to Tyson Barrie pinching from the point, who put a good shot on Rask. Why that kind of pass and shot are not allowed on the power play remains a mystery to everyone.
Despite their woeful effort on the power play, the Avalanche did seem to take some momentum out of the power play and the ice slowly tilted towards Tukka Rask. At the period's halfway mark Nathan MacKinnon had a good scoring chance near the left faceoff dot. The Bruins responded with a rush up ice and the most dangerous scoring chance of the game so far, where Alex Tanguay was assessed a hooking minor.
The Avalanche killed off the first half of the penalty with some very greasy work by Brad Stuart in the corner. Stuart fell to the ice wrestling with two Bruins and froze the puck in the corner until it popped out where Nate Guenin could clear it down the ice. The second penalty killing unit of Talbot and Cliche was considerably less successful, watching the Bruins take a barrage of shots at Varlamov including a very dangerous near wraparound for Milan Lucic.
After surviving an onslaught of Bruins opportunities the Avs' top line took the puck the other way and nearly beat Rask. Gabe Landeskog fired a low pass off the pads from the left faceoff circle, where O'Reilly fired the rebound back into the shin of a bruins defender. That shot bounced back to Landeskog in front of a gaping Bruins net. Landeskog tried to take the puck off his backhand but missed the net wide.
The last few minutes saw another dangerous shift in the Avs zone from the Bruins, followed by a sweet give-and-go by who else? Tanguay and Iginla, which resulted in a sneaky hard wrist shot from Jarome Iginla. Rask stretched with the pad to stop Iginla's shot towards the far post, but Iggy would not be denied for long. The Iginla line got one more shift to close out the period and earned a lead for the Avalanche at the last possible second. The goal was actually a picture perfect look at a lot of things the Avs haven't been doing right lately, and how those things help you win hockey games.
First, under an aggressive forecheck Tyson Barrie resisted the urge to #throwituptheboards and instead found teammate Matt Duchene with a hard midair pass in the neutral zone (not that slow sliding crap that keeps getting picked off). Duchene made an excellent move to play the puck out of the air but then instead of skating laterally, making a fancy move, or dishing the puck backwards, he took the puck aggressively and with speed over the line, allowing his teammates to also take the offensive zone with speed. Taking the line with speed forces the opposing defense to back up faster and give players a larger gap and the Bruins defense did just that. Duchene sauced the puck to Alex Tanguay on his left, who fired a no nonsense shot ON NET low at Rask's pads. With the defense crashing back into Rask (and accidentally interfering with him) Jarome Iginla easily picked up the pass-off-the-pads and buried it in the Bruins net with just 0.4 seconds left in the first period. This is how you play good hockey. Move aggressively with speed and purpose and get the puck and bodies on net. Good job Avalanche. More of that please. After a relatively even period (shots 9-7 in favor of Colorado) Avs 1 Boston 0.
Also this is neat:
Jarome Iginla (574) now owns sole possession of 20th place in @NHL scoring all-time. He’s just 3 goals behind Mark Recchi (577) for 19th.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) January 22, 2015
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Boston did not take kindly to the deficit during the intermission and came out firing on all cylinders in the second period. To their credit the Avs did a good job of blocking shots and keeping the Bruins on the perimeter, but they could not get anything going offensively in the first half of the period. The Avalanche did not possess the puck outside of their zone (or at all really) in the first 4:00 minutes of the period, and did not register a shot on net until Dennis Everberg carried the puck solo coast to coast 6:00 into the period. Everberg fired a pass-of-the-pads type shot (just like Tanguay in period 1) towards his trailing forward Cody McLeod, but the puck careened away from McLeod, who's stick was parallel with the ice at waist level. Unfortunately Everberg's outstanding individual effort was wiped out when the Bruins took his rebound the other way and produced game's tying goal. David Pasternak took a big slapshot from the right point that bounced off nick Holden in front and straight to Torey Krug who buried the puck past a helpless Semyon Varlamov.
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At the halfway mark the Bruins had another great opportunity from Krug, who fired a hard shot at Varlamov's five-hole. Varlamov squeezed the pillows shut, but the puck squeaked through and started trickling towards the back of the Avs net. Nick Holden reached behind the Avs' goaltender to dig the puck out and save the goal. Moments later the Avalanche lobbed the puck in towards Tukka Rask. Due to a good forecheck from Tanguay, Rask was forced to clear the puck himself, and launched it over the boards, giving the Avalanche their second power play of the night.
Patrick Roy elected to start this power play with the Cody McLeod unit hooray. They did nothing with the first 1:00+ of the power play, and it wasn't until the second unit came out on the ice that the Avs possessed the puck in the Bruins zone. The Bruins launched the puck over the glass, giving the Avalanche 30 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time. The Avs did absolutely nothing with it, failing to register a shot on net. At that point Roy took MacKinnon and company off the ice and put Cody McLeod back on, who. McLeod drove the net hard with the puck and drew a hooking penalty from Kevan Miller, giving the Avalanche another 43 seconds of 5-on-3 time. Roy called a timeout so that he could rest the McLeod power play unit for the 5-on-3 (no I'm not kidding). McLeod acted as a fulltime screen on the PP while the other Avs (Tanguay, Johnson, Iginla, O'Reilly) cycled the puck around. The best chance of the 3 consecutive power plays came when Erik Johnson and Ryan O`Reilly took shots on net, Alex Tanguay took the rebound and fired it short side on Rask, who made an excellent side to side move.
On the 3 consecutive power plays, including over 1:00 of 5-on-3 time, the Avalanche registered a total of 5 shots. Disgusting.
On a coaching note, here are the players that Roy elected to bench in favor of Cody McLeod on the power play:
Daniel Briere (scratched)
Electing to play 4-on-4
For perspective on why that decision is so baffling. Jan Hejda, with 7 has more points this season than Cody McLeod and Brad Stuart has the same number of points as McLeod (6) in 16 fewer games. Dennis Everberg also has more points per game. In fact, the only player worse suited for over 4:00 of power play time in the first two period is Marc Andre Cliche. In short? An indefensible coaching solution from a coach who's power play has been all too defensible all season.
Despite all the power play time, the Avalanche were outshot 12-8 in the second period. Total shots BOS 19 - COL 17
The seconds period opened with a bang. The Avalanche came in and took a shot on net which was easily deflected over the boards by Tukka Rask. On the ensuing scrum Gabriel Landeskog and Dougie Hamilton dropped the gloves for a long wrestling match with very few meaningful punches thrown. Meanwhile, Ryan O'Reilly stepped between Brad Marchand and his Avalanche teammates. Marchand ripped off O'Reilly's helmet with a headlock, then slew-footed him to the ice. O'Reilly was furious with the officials as he was given a matching penalty with Marchand (2:00 for roughing).
Just a minute later the Bruins were penalized again when David Pasternak slashed Nick Holden's stick out of his hand in the corner of the Avs' zone the Avalanche power play was significantly improved on this opportunity in terms of movement, but they failed to generate any real dangerous chances. Twice on the power play Matt Duchene had a wide open net to shoot at, once the puck bounced on him, the next time he double clutched and lost his opportunity. The first unit concluded their shift with a heavy Jarome Iginla shot on net, which Cody McLeod blocked in front. The second unit (including MacKinnon and Barrie) came out to play a final, and ineffectual 40 seconds of the power play and failed to generate a scoring chance.
Immediately following the Avalanche's most recent failure on the power play Brad Marchand came out of the box gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead. It all started when Jan Hejda played Krejci too aggressively at the line and swapped coverage with Marc Andre Cliche. Krejci found Marchand on the rush where Brad Stuart was backing up, giving the winger far too much space, then Marchand found the back of the net with a wristshot over a kneeling Stuart. 2-1 Bruins.
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A few minutes later the Avs finally had an offensive opportunity, when Dennis Everberg picked off a Boston pass on the forecheck. He settled the puck, turned and fired a hard slapshot ide of the Bruins net. With 13 minutes left in the game, the "Lets Go Bruins" chants were audible on TV. Nate Guenin (being a former Penguin) hated the sound and made one of the best offensive plays of the night for the Avalanche. Guenin jumped in the air to keep the puck in the offensive zone, then drove the net, toe dragged and fired a shot on Rask. Guening crashed the crease, found his own rebound and shot again. The Pepsi Center crowd went wild with a cheer of "Tuuuuuuuk." Boston Bruins fans emboldened by their team's "ace penalty killing" were really enjoying this period.
With 12 minutes on the clock the Avs 3rd line had their first extended shift in the Bruins zone, featuring two shots from the point from Zach Redmond with Avalanche forwards providing traffic in front. With 9:40 left on the clock the Duchene line finally looked to have some jump as they flew into the Bruins zone, but Roy whistled for a change, they dumped the puck and all three players headed immediately for the bench. Instead of changing dynamically with possession the Avs went for another dump and change, scrambled to keep up with the Bruins counter attack, and relinquished a great chance to the Bruins attack, which resulted in a post and out shot.
The Avs got the puck back in the Boston zone, cycled it and Jan Hejda fanned on a slap shot which found Rask in the chest. Over the next few shifts the Avalanche started to cycle the puck better in the offensive zone, Nathan MacKinnon showed a flash of his old offensive self dancing along the goal-line when he deked the D and laid up a perfect pass for a Talbot one-timer. Talbot lost his balance and fell backwards as he shot, getting almost nothing on the puck an leading to an easy cover for Rask.
On the ensuing faceoff the Bruins took the puck up ice and took advantage of a broken Erik Johnson stick to cycle the puck in the Avs zone. The play resulted in a big time sprawling save by Semyon Varlamov to keep his team within one. The Avalanche got the puck back into the offensive zone, where Max Talbot took a high sticking penalty behind the play, 200 feet from his own net. On the penalty kill the Avalanche quickly stole the puck and Gabe Landeskog carried it up the right wing before turning and falling down in the offensive zone. While the Bruins didnt take many risks on their power play, the Avalanche did a good job of killing off the rest of the penalty. What they didn't do a good job of was trying to tie the game afterward. It took the Avalanche 60 seconds after the power play expired to get the puck into the Bruins zone, and almost 100 seconds to do so with firm possession. The Avalanche pulled Varlamov with just over 2:00 to go, with an offensive unit of McLeod, Everberg, Mitchell, Holden and Redmond, with Ryan O'Reilly as the 6th man out. McLeod and Everberg were big in the Bruin's crease and caused a lot of havoc for Bruin's defense and Rask. John Mitchell fired a pass into traffic which deflected off Rask and straight to Ryan O`Reilly just as he caught up with the pack. O'Reilly brought the puck to his backhand side and fired it roof past Tukka Rask to tie the game with 1:45 left on the clock. Assists to Dennis Everberg and John Mitchell.
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The Avalance overtime started with a HUGE move by Brad Stuart to deke through the Bruins forwards at the line, push back the defense, toe drag, pump fake and then SMOKE a wrister past Rask, off the right post, and out the left side behind Rask's back. I was out of my chair positive that puck was in the net. The Avalanche took Stuart's move and ran with it laying an all out assault on the Bruins' tired squad in OT. The next best opportunity came when Duchene attacked the blue line, drove deep and fed the puck back to Barrie. Tyson Barrie made a great deke to the inside and fired a wrister into Rask. Rask made the initial save and Jarome Iginla went digging for the rebound in his pads, knocking the puck loose to Matt Duchene who had an open net to shoot at and hit the right post. Tyson Barrie had another good shot low on Rask, but Tukka stretched the pad and made the save. The Avs ran out of gas in the last minute of OT and both teams held on for the shootout.
Nathan MacKinnon: Finally changed his move, glided in slowly, waited patient and beat Rask five-hole with a pure snap.
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Reilly Smith: Tried to go forehand backhand and missed wide glove side.
Matt Duchene: Swung out wide, cut across forehand backhand and missed high and wide.
David Pastrnak: Tried to freeze Varlamov with a low fake then a shot high, missed high and wide.
Alex Tanguay: Tried his patented wait-em-out move for a wide no-angle shot high. Rask didn't bite.
Patrice Bergeron: Tried to beat Varlamov five-hold. Denied.
Colorado Line Combinations (Now with Special Teams!):
Landeskog - O`Reilly - MacKinnon
Iginla - Duchene - Tanguay
McLeod - Mitchell - Everberg
Doubleshift - Cliche - Talbot
Hejda - Johnson
Guenin - Barrie
Holden - Stuart
McLeod - McLeod - McLeod
Not Barrie - Not Redmond
MHH Three Stars of the Game:
1. Ryan O`Reilly - Game tying goal, Avs got better when his line took Bergeron's instead of Duchene's.
2. Dennis Everberg - Great all night.
3. Brad Stuart - Better offensive game from him tonight. Hella-sweet move in OT.
Avalanche Three Stars of the Game:
1. Ryan O`Reilly
2. Jarome Iginla
3. Tukka Rask
Cole's Gripe of the Game:
Basically everything I wrote in the second half of period two.
Erik Johnson heads to Columbus to participate in his first All-Star Game. The Avs take some more time off and return to action against the Nashville Predators next Tuesday.