Tonight's game exemplified much of Colorado's young season. There were bad bounces, flashes of really solid 5-on-5 play, and a dearth of power play scoring. It all added up to another close loss on the road to a 6-5-1 Coyotes team.
The first period featured few great scoring chances for the either team. A clogged neutral zone dragged both teams down into a sloppy back-and-forth at center ice. Arizona, however, would get on the board 7:05 into the period with a Niklas Grossman shot from the top of the circle. Nikita Zadorov and Dennis Everberg did their very best to screen goalie Semyon Varlamov and it's unlikely he ever saw the puck. The strong Avalanche penalty kill would get its first shot at the 19:05 mark and hold the Coyotes without a goal heading into the locker room.
If the first period was bogged down, the second period was an endless bayou swamp. With six penalties committed between the two teams, there was very little even strength hockey played. The scoring, though, was a bit more lively. Tobias Rieder took a low-percentage shot from the bottom of the right circle that impossibly caromed off Gabriel Landeskog's stick and down into the net. Again, Varlamov had no chance -- them's the breaks. Just over a minute later Erik Johnson would take matters into his own hands and make one of the best plays you will see from a defenseman all season. The Condor took off from his own zone, deked two men at center ice, and the proceeded to split defenders through the slot to get a great shot on goal. The puck didn't fall in immediately, but Cody McLeod was right there to clean it up and put the Avalanche on the board. The Coyotes would score once more in the period when Varlamov went to deflect a slap shot from the blueline into the boards. The puck hit Ben Street and ricocheted back toward Varly's pads; and when he went to cover it, Ben Street to the ice slid right into the goaltender after being muscled to the ice by former Avalanche Steve Downie. Street collided with Varlamov and jarred the puck loose for Downie to pop it in the net. Breaks are tough.
The Avs really got it going in the 3rd. Spurned by some Patrick Roy line shakeups, the Avs got some great scoring chances and held Arizona to only four shot attempts in the period. Unfortunately, Arizona goalie Mike Smith really came to play and turned nearly everything away. Colorado would draw the game to 3-2 on a Matt Duchene wrister following a Nathan MacKinnon backhanded pass. Duchene had another fantastic game and it's great to see he was rewarded on the scoreboard again. The slump looked like it was about to kill him and he's been a much more effective player the last couple of games.
The Avs pulled their goalie with 1:30 to go and got numerous shots off, but the only team that would find the net was the Coyotes on an empty-netter. The clock would run out with the score reading 4-2.
(Guys, look how blue some of this chart is.)
(More to come)