Colorado hits the ice with a bunch of energy tonight, shooting out to an early lead and getting just enough defense and goaltending to win an important game against a divisional opponent.
We've gotten pretty used to the Avalanche getting off to slow starts this season. That wasn't the case tonight. Colorado came out hitting and skating and made numerous plays early in the 1st Period. The first shift for Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Matt Duchene set a frenetic pace from the onset and the Bottom-9 did their best to keep up. The first goal came on a dominating shift from Blake Comeau. The 3rd line left-wing first made a great check on the boards to stop the puck from getting deep. Winnipeg maintained control and began working the puck to the point, but Comeau would stay with the play, make a steal, and head down the ice for a breakaway. After a slight hesitation move, he fired the puck far-side past goalie Michael Hutchinson to give Colorado a 1-0 lead.
The Avalanche would make it 2-0 on a Landeskog goal not five minutes later. Francois Beauchemin started the play with an intentionally wide pass from the point to the right corner. The puck flight, ostensibly calculated by NASA engineers, ricocheted directly in front of the net, off Matt Duchene parked in front of the net, and right to the Captain, who launched a wrist-shot from the slot -- nothing but net. Carl Soderberg decided to get in on the action too, just 5:55 into the 2nd Period. After Hutchinson lost his stick during an Avalanche power play, a barrage of great passing led to a couple of excellent breakaway opportunities. Nathan MacKinnon missed his high, but Soderberg -- after a brilliant Matt Duchene pass -- stuck one in the net to make it 3-0.
Then it started to unravel a little bit. Discerning fans may have had terrifying flashbacks to the season opener against Minnesota as the Avs let it two straight goals by Andrew Ladd (on an improbable tip) and Blake Wheeler shorthanded. Fortunately, Colorado was able to get into the locker room before any further damage could be done.
New addition Chris Wagner gave the Avs a bit of breathing to start the 3rd on a shot from the left circle through an Andreas Martinsen screen. The 4-2 lead wouldn't last, though, as Winnipeg struck again with 9:06 left. Jacob Trouba rifled a shot off the bottom of the cross bar from deep after the Avs were stuck in their zone for an extended stretch of time. This sort of play would represent much of the remainder of the game as the Jets pushed hard to tie the game. But after pulling the goalie, Trouba would commit a holding penalty right after a Landeskog steal and nullify the advantage. After the ensuing faceoff, the Avs would get a couple of chances at the empty net and finally got one home on a Matt Duchene shot. With that goal, Dutchy became the franchise record holder for goals in a calendar month with eleven. This may have been his easiest, but he's still on fire.
When the clock ran out, Colorado had five goals and Winnipeg had three.
(Graph Courtesy of War-On-Ice.com)
- Gabriel Landeskog - The Captain earned tonight's first-star with the media and it was no fluke. Two assists, a goal, and two key penalties drawn at important points in the game. This is the kind of play Avalanche fans know he's capable of. Duchene and MacKinnon have seen a point boost since this new line was constructed. Might we see Landy get going at the same torrid pace?
- Matt Duchene - Not to be outdone, Duchene had three points of his own -- two primary assists and an empty-net goal to seal the victory. The goal put him in sole possession of the franchise record for goals in a calendar month with eleven. More of that please!
- Andrew Agozzino - Welcome back to the NHL, fella! Recently called up from the San Antonio rampage, Aggz made his presence known early on the 4th line and earned some playing time on the 3rd toward the end of the game. Plus-5 CF+/- to lead the team. He earned his time in the lineup tonight.
- Jarome Iginla - Everyone struggled against Burmistrov, Thorburn, and Ehlers tonight, but Iginla is the veteran who is supposed to carry the 2nd line. He was invisible tonight except for a fight in the second period. Forgettable evening for the 38-year old vet.
- Mikhail Grigorenko - Grigs has had a lot of really solid games recently. Tonight wasn't one of them. Chalk it up to inconsistency or incompatible linemates (see above), but the result wasn't satisfactory.
- Gormley/Redmond Pairing - It wasn't all bad. These two make the pretty outlet passes among Avalanche defensemen and that was on display tonight. Unfortunately, they got matched against a Jets line that completely dominated tonight.