With Joey Hishon out of the lineup with an elbow/neck injury Daniel Briere quickly took advantage of his return to the ice to make a difference for the Avs. On his first shift of the night, Briere made a great play to drive the net on the left side circle, and just before taking a very dangerous shot on net, was hooked by Jared Stoll, giving the Avalanche the first power play of the night. The Avalanche power play showed more confidence than it has for much of the season, and cycled the puck well, but may have been a little too fancy. The Avs had several missed scoring opportunities and failed to register a shot on net. Their best chance came when Alex Tanguay faked out the King's defense and goaltender with a slap pass across the crease to Zach Redmond. Unfortunately, Redmond was also sold by the fake and missed out on the pass which would have given him an open net to shoot at.
The Avs showed some flashes of good early, but they were also sloppy with their passes and some of their decision making. the Avs paid for their sloppiness 6:20 into the period, when Jarome Iginla made an unnecessary turnover at his own blueline, then hooked the Los Angeles forward to recover. Ryan O`Reilly was extremely aggressive on the first half of the penalty kill and killed almost 45 seconds himself by forechecking, battling, and holding the puck in the LA Kings' zone. On their next possession the King's made an excellent give-and-go play to transition the puck low to high and give Brayden McNabb a clear lane at the Avalanche net. McNabb fired a hard wrist shot on net which was redirected in front by Marian Gaborik to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
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The Avs responded with their best shift of the game to that point, a forechecking assault by the third line. Jan Hejda and John Mitchell tried to replicate the Kings' goal with a wrist shot up high and a deflection in front, but Mitchell caught too much of the puck and slowed it down in front of the Kings crease. When that line left the ice Jonathan Quick was nearly beaten by a bouncing chip-in and Landeskog followup, but the puck deflected away into the corner. The Avs were relentless on the forecheck over the next few minutes, pinching hard and attacking the Kings deep in their own zone. The aggressive forecheck nearly cost the Avs when a puck bounced over Nate Guenin's stick at the blue line and left Tyson Barrie alone on a 2-on-1. Barrie made an outstanding defensive play to step to the puck carrier, take away the pass and poke the puck away to the corner, then outskated the Kings' forward to keep body position and poke the puck away again.
The solid defensive play wouldn't last, however, as the Kings scored again 11:58 into the first period. Jordan Nolan and Trevor Lewis made a nice give-and-go play at the blue line to create space and trick Jan Hejda into overcommitting above the faceoff circle. Hejda committed to Jeff Carter, who dropped the puck to Nolan, spun Hejda around, knocked him down, and drove to the net alone where he received the puck from Nolan again and beat Pickard with ease. Sorry Jan Hejda, but this is not the Matt Duchene spin move:
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Once again the Avs responded to the Kings' goal in a big way, and this time they would not be denied. Ryan O`Reilly broke the puck out through the neutral zone with a very nice carry before dishing off to Gabriel Landeskog. Landeskog made a clockwise loop of the offensive zone and dropped the puck to Tyson Barrie making a counter clockwise loop at the blue line. Barrie lost his man with the move (Gaborik), cut inside and beat Quick to bring the Avs within 1 goal.
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The Avs looked like they would tie the game moments later when Matt Duchene flew down the right wing and beat the defense with a snipe, but the puck pinged loudly off the post and the Kings headed the other way. The Avs continued skating hard but couldn't create much and just like that, 2:00 later the Kings regained their 2 goal lead. Kyle Clifford got the puck at the point off the cycle and fired a knuckle-puck shot that deflected off Brayden McNabb and past Pickard.
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Down 3-1 on the Kings' first 8 shots, Patrick Roy elected to pull Calvin Pickard in favor of back-backup Reto Berra. The Avs responded quickly to the goaltending change with a huge shift from their 4th line. After picking off a pass on the forecheck, Marc-Andre Cliche made a very slick one-touch pass to Briere in the slot for an almost wide-open net, Quick made a great save on Briere and then got lucky as his defense bailed him out on the ensuing scramble. Cliche recovered the first rebound and fired for the empty net, where Jared Stoll dropped into butterfly and made a goaltending save, then Cody McLeod fired the next rebound into a diving Trevor Lewis. Somehow, some way, no goal for the Avalanche.
Late in the period Duchene lost a step on Carter in his own zone and threw his whole body and Carter's legs, diving to try and poke away a puck from behind. It was a very odd, very low percentage play by Matt Duchene and it resulted in a 2:00 power play for the Kings. The Avs did well kill the penalty. In short, a good start and some bad luck quickly unraveled into a disaster of a 1st period with only 5 shots on net and a 2 goal mountain to climb in the final 40:00.
The period opened with a beautiful individual effort from Ryan O`Reilly to skate down the wing, pass to himself off the endboards, and then attempt to beat Quick on the near post. O'Reilly was stuffed but the Avs strong start to the period continued with another good shift from the Avs 4th line where Marc Andre Cliche stole the puck in his own zone and drew a tripping penalty on Stoll.
The Avalanche created one good chance early on the power play when Dennis Everberg had a chance to go forehand backhand in the crease, but Jonathan Quick was aggressive and poked the puck away. The Avalanche were then trapped in their own zone on the power play and Jeff Carter missed out on his second of the night when he missed a wide open net in front. As the Avs re-entered the zone, Dennis Everberg was called for interference after apparently bumping into Drew Doughty away from the puck. At 4-on-4 Matt Duchene was flying all over the ice and had another good look from the right wing, but couldn't pick a corner for the puck and was stopped by Quick.
Near the end of the 4-on-4 John Mitchell was pushed into the Kings net and knocked it off it's moorings. The refs did not blow the whistle and waited until the Avalanche were back on the penalty kill, with a chance to clear the puck, to blow the whistle. Then, after replacing the net, they gave the Kings another free offensive zone faceoff on the power play.
At the end of the penalty kill Daniel Briere and Cody McLeod had another pair of quality chances near Jonathan Quick, including a wrap around by McLeod, but they couldn't make the puck go.
Landeskog had a very physical shift with 2 big hits then an Avs chance drew a penalty. The Avs looked dangerous on the delayed penalty with chances from Duchene and McLeod turned away by Quick, but then the refs blew the whistle when an LA player barely deflected the puck, denying the Avs the rest of their 6 on 5 opportunity.
The Avalanche did absolutely nothing on their power play opportunity, aside from a weak wrister by Matt Duchene, and the Kings immediately jumped back on them after the man advantage ended. Just 40 seconds after the penalty expired the Kings made it a 3 goal lead when Anze Kopitar fired the puck on net where Kyle Clifford was easily outmuscling Brad Stuart in front of the Avs net. Stuart was brought in to be a "crease-clearing" "stay at home" "gritty" defenseman, and he had his ass handed to him by Clifford who outmuscled him for position, then grabbed his stick, held it, and scored with one hand while in body contact with Stuart. Stuart didn't move his feet, or his arms in an attempt to push or body Clifford, instead he pushes on him lightly with the stick, then complains to the officials after the goal. "Crease clearer" indeed. 4-1 Kings.
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With 2:00 left in the game Nate Guenin was dominated below his own goal line by Nick Shore, turned the puck over, and gave the Kings an extremely dangerous chance in front of the Avs net. Berra sealed his pad and moved well side-to-side, making his best save of the night with the right pad.
A theme tonight, the Avalanche started the third period off strong with a number of good chances in front of the Kings' net, as Jarome Iginla missed an open net just wide of the right post after a tough centering pass.
5:00 in the Duchene line (now with Cody McLeod replacing Jordan Caron on the wing) had a great chance in front when Duchene fed Barrie in the high slot and Cody McLeod had a great chance at a rebound but couldn't get his stick on the puck. Duchene battled for the puck again and skated circles down low in the Kings zone until he finally outmuscled a Kings' defenseman and fed Barrie again. Barrie unloaded on the puck and hit the post. The network went to a commercial break, and when they returned the Duchene line went right back to work with another great shift down low. Duchene fired a hard, low backhand into the crease hoping to wreak havoc, and McLeod and Iginla were nearly able to grab the rebound.
After some bad luck and a number of posts, the Avalanche finally broke through again after a good shift from the third line and a great chance from Tyson Barrie. After missing just wide from the high slot, Dennis Everberg dug for the puck behind the Kings' net and attempted a wraparound on Quick. The puck squirted free and Marc Andre Cliche, fresh from a line change one-touched the puck across to Alex Tanguay on the backdoor, who tapped the puck in for his 18th goal of the year.
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The Avs comeback chances wouldn't last long, as Brad Stuart and Reto Berra were determined to resume the Avalanche tank effort. A few shifts and just 90 seconds after Tanguay's goal, the Avalanche had a complete defensive breakdown which left Jake Muzzin with a clear shooting lane to the Avs net. Berra had a clear look at the shot from a long way out until Jake Muzzin started to wind up for the shot. At that point Stuart took a few strides sideways to step directly in front of his goaltender with no Kings players in sight. With the screen in place, and Berra's puck tracking talents.... limited... Muzzin scored the Kings' 5th goal of the night and recaptured the 3-goal lead.
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The Avalanche pulled their goalie with 5:00 left and while they didn't create much offensively, they did provide some entertainment with a few hilarious stops in their own zone. First Tyson Barrie stopped a sure goal with his stick by diving and deflecting the shot away, then he and Jan Hejda skated for their own net, collided, and Jan Hejda fell on the puck in the crease to prevent a goal.
Freddie Hamilton, Jordan Caron, and John Mitchell were all benched for the entire third period.
MHH Three Stars:
1A. Tyson Barrie - Probably the Avs best player and a difference maker on both goals
1B. Matt Duchene - Flying all night, anchored by poor play from his linemates
3. Alex Tanguay - Potted his 18th goal and had a few very pretty passes
Honorable Mentions: McLeod, O`Reilly, Briere
MHH Three Goats:
1. Brad Staurt - Are you kidding me?
2. Avalanche Goaltenders - Not. Good. Enough.
3. Avalanche coaching staff - Make your top 6 a top 6 please
Next Up: The Avs take on the Devils on Thursday at 9:00 PM EST, 7:00 PM MST