This was a frustrating game. There were stretches in which the Avalanche played well, and the top line dominated the Penguins. However, the Avs let a few bad breaks get into their heads, and they couldn't them back into the game until it was too late.
It was noticeable the entire period when the Dutchy-MacK-Landy line was on the ice. They dominated for significant stretches. The rest of the team, not so much. McLeod got into a kerfuffle with Sidney Crosby, who did not fight his own battle, opting to allow Patrick Hornquist to engage in the pleasantries instead. McLeod and Hornquist each got penalties, and the teams would play 4 v. 4 hockey. The Avs did very well on the 4 v. 4, culminating in a Barrie point shot that hit the post and fluttered on the ice behind Fleury before being cleared away by a Pens defenseman. This terrible luck would continue through the rest of the night.
The Avs got a couple of power plays, which mostly consisted of one-timers from the top of the circles by either MacKinnon or Iginla. Finally, on their third power play of the first period, Matt Duchene cashed in with 26 seconds left in the period by collecting a Jarome Iginla rebound, making a quick move around Fleury, and tossing the puck in to a virtually empty net. 1-0 good guys.
The 9's line again looked great (I think I'm sensing a theme here). The Avs actually took the lead in even strength shot attempts in the early stages of the second period. Matt Duchene drew a high sticking penalty about 4 minutes into the period. The referees, tired of seeing the Avalanche destroy the concept of the power play for millions of people worldwide, assessed Francois Beauchemin with a high sticking penalty, apparently because he hit the Penguin logo on Matt Cullen's chest right in the beak. While sticking did occur, it certainly was not of the high variety. Being the team from Colorado, we know high varieties in more ways than one.
Nevertheless, the teams would play at 4 v. 4 for one minute, followed by a theoretical 1 minute powerplay. The hockey gods then decided to smite the Avalanche with their mighty and dreadful power. Either that or Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones showed up and flashy thinged the Avs' memory of how to play hockey. On the 4v4, Ian Cole threw a shot at the net through traffic. David Perron aka "The Most Talented Buttcheeks in Pittsburgh" directed the puck past Reto Berra. Avs - 1, Douchebag Hockey Gods - 1. On the Pens subsequent powerplay, Malkin (Evgeni variety, not John Mitchell variety) blasted a one-timer past Berra. Avs - 1, Douchebag Hockey Gods - 1, Russian Flightless Bird - 1. (2-1 Pens). Less than 40 seconds later, Reto Berra mishandled a puck, lost it in his feet, and Chris Kunitz poked it into the net. Avs - 1, Douchebag Hockey Gods - 1, Russian Flightless Bird - 1, Swiss Goalie Flashy Thinged by Will Smith - 1 (3-1 Pens). The Avs stumbled out of the rest of the period, never really getting anything going.
The Avs started this period looking completely inept. They fumbled pucks and missed passes. They took two bad penalties, and were hot garbage on the penalty kill, although they didn't allow the Pens to score.With 11 minutes left in the period, the Avs finally got some good zone time, and made it count. Tyson Barrie threw a shot from the point that bounced off of something in front of the net and ended up behind Flower. 3-2 Pens.
The Avs really began to push back at this point, just in time for Sidney Crosby to put in a dagger. An Ian Cole dump in bounced off of Tyson Barrie's skate directly to Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis made a slick pass to catch Crosby in stride behind the Avs D. Crosby put a backhand through Berra's 5 hole. 4-2 Pens. This goal seemed to deflate the Avs for a while, until Roy called Berra to the bench. The Avs mounted the beginnings of a comeback with a second Matt Duchene goal. Landeskog and Grigorenko made it easy for Duchene with a couple of great touch passes close into the goal.
It was all for naught. The Avs lost 4-3.
Avs 3 Stars
1st Star- Matt Duchene. The dude is on fire. He now has 6 goals and 11 points in his last 5 games. That's insanity, but also display of what can happen when Matt Duchene isn't playing with Cody Goddamn McLeod.
2nd Star- Erik Johnson. Johnson matched extremely effectively against Sidney Crosby, finishing close to even in the possession game. He made several very good pinches to keep the play alive toward the end of the game.
3rd Star- Mikhail Grigorenko. Despite getting buried in possession metrics, Grigorenko showed some serious defensive chops this game, including picking Sidney Crosby's pocket and stealing the puck from Evgeni Malkin in the same shift. He has now tied his career high points in 10 fewer games, and has 4 points in his last 4 games.
Honorable Mention- Reto Berra. One huge mistake keeps Berra from a star, but don't let it fool you. Berra had another very good night.
- This game featured the always high profile battle of two players from the same hometown: Madison, WI natives Phil Kessel and Jack Skille. They also were rivals in college hockey, Skille a Badger and Kessel a disgusting rodent gopher.
- As of this writing, Matt Duchene is in a 4 way tie for 5th place in goal scoring. Nathan MacKinnon is still in the top 10 in overall scoring. Tyson Barrie has now slipped into the top 20 among defensemen.
As always, charts are 5 v. 5 score adjusted.