I wish the Coyotes were wearing their fantastic throwback jerseys. There's just no reason not to.
The game started slowly with neither team registering a shot in the opening 2:00, but after a careless icing near the 17:40 mark, the Avalanche gave the Coyotes an early lead. After the defensive zone faceoff, the line of Marc Andre Cliche, Cody McLeod, and Dennis Everberg has trapped in their own zone for over a minute with the defensive pair of Nate Guenin and Tyson Barrie. The Coyotes had a number of great chances on the shift, including one which hopped over Varlamov and through the crease, and one when McLeod lost his man in the crease, but Varlamov made saves on both. After over 60 seconds of puck chasing the Avalanche were finally punished by this near league-worst Coyotes team, when Sam Gagner faked a shot near the right side faceoff dot before sliding the puck across to Oliver Ekman-Larsson pinching on the left side. OEL snapped the puck past Varlamov to give the Coyotes an early 1-0 lead.
The Avalanche's poor play continued up to the 5:00 mark, when they surrendered a 2-on-1 opportunity to Tobias Rieder. Reider snapped a good shot up high but Semyon Varlamov made a highlight reel glove save. The 2-on-1 breakdown wasn't exactly a "wake up call" but it did seem to get the Avs' legs moving a little better in the early going. After another shift in their own zone from the third line (not a good start for them), the O'Reilly line came onto the ice and started to tip the ice back in the Avalanche's favor. Just after the 12:00 mark, Ryan O`Reilly one touched a pass from Gabe Landeskog past two Coyotes defenders, then sprinted after the loose puck like a mad man and split the Arizona defense down the middle. O'Reilly drove the net, made a move side to side and fired a wrister which disappeared into Louis Domingue's pads. Landeskog followed up on O'Reilly's shot and drove the net, but as the goalie reacted he inadvertently knocked the puck back across the goal line, giving the Avalanche the tying goal. Gabe Landeskog and Tyson Barrie assisted on O'Reilly's 12th goal of the season.
It took the Avalanche 29 seconds to light the lamp again. On the ensuing center ice faceoff, Jarome Iginla grabbed a deflected puck out of the air, played it ahead on an odd-man rush, looked off a pass across the ice to Matt Duchene and fired a mid-height wrister over the pad and under the glove Domingue on the short side. John Mitchell and Jan Hejda picked up assists on Iginla's 23rd goal of the season (583rd goal of his career).
The next few minutes the most even play of the period, as both sides struggled to transition into effective offensive possession. The Avs finally broke through with an aggressive zone entry by Matt Duchene, who made a great move in the offensive zone to get a shot on net. Mitchell, Iginla and Duchene all had chances at separate rebounds near the goal crease, but Domingue and his defenseman blocked them all. The Avs were quickly trapped back in their own zone when the third line of McLeod-Cliche-Everberg took the ice (they were awful in the first, surrendering 7 of the first 12 shots against), but when the Coyotes did turn over the puck, they took the first penalty of the game as David Moss tripped Marc Andre Cliche.
On the power play the Avalanche gained the offensive zone with relative ease, but the Coyotes disrupted each on of their first-passes in the O-zone and sent puck after puck gliding towards Varlamov on a series of easy clears. For 2:00 Avalanche players practiced their breakouts and failed to generate any real offensive opportunities. With 1:00 remaining on the clock the Coyotes had a dangerous odd-man rush and looked to have a chance with a crossing pass in front of Varlamov, but Ryan O'Reilly came flying in from behind to disrupt the play and preserve the Avalanche lead late. Final shots Arizona 12 - Colorado 9
The second period of play started much better for the Avalanche than the first one. The Avs were skating well, transitioning well through the neutral zone, and firing shots at and on net. The Avs didn't create many dangerous opportunities in their early shifts, until Matt Duchene received a centering pass at the 16:00 mark, touched the pass through a Coyotes defenseman back to himself, settled it and fired a hard wrister on net. Domingue made a good save to deny Duchene, then he and his defense denied the Avalanche a number of chances on the loose puck in the crease. Moments later, still stuck in their own zone, the Coyote's lobbed the puck over the Avs bench and sent the Avalanche back on the power play.
The Avs second power play was much better than the first. The first unit moved the puck well but narrowly missed on some quality scoring chances due to shots wide of the net and bouncing passes. When the second unit took the ice, however, Nick Holden was gifted a one timer at the right point where he fired a booming slapshot on net. Domingue made the stop, but John Mitchell nearly batted the puck out of the air and back past the Coyotes goaltender. At the end of the power play the Avalanche had one last flurry of activity in the crease, but Domingue made a quality quick save sealing his left pad to the ice and denying an opportunity down low. The Coyotes rushed up ice on a resulting 2-on-1, but Nick Holden denied the passing lane and the Arizona player fired the puck wide.
After a commercial break the Avalanche came out in the offensive zone with their 4th line. The 4th liners, who had been somewhat invisible so far in tonight's contest were absolutely dominant in the Coyotes' zone, cycling well and creating a number of scoring chances. At the end of their long offensive shift, Daniel Briere collected the puck on the left side half-boards and sent a pretty corner-to-corner pass to Brad Stuart on the right side point. Stuart fired a hard, low slap shot and Freddie Hamilton, providing a screen in front, tipped the puck home. The milestone goal was Freddie Hamilton's first NHL goal and point. 3-1 Avs.
The next several minutes passed without any noteworthy action, until Freddie Hamilton entered the zone with speed, drove down the right wing and ripped a shot on net, off the goalie and into the netting. Looks like that first goal got someone hungry for more. At the 6:00 mark the Coyotes started to provide some push-back in the Avalanche zone, including a decent chance by Martin Erat in front of the net which Varlamov turned away. Dennis Everberg was having NONE of this comeback effort and drove the Coyotes net with the puck until a mass of humanity in the blue paint triggered a whistle. With a minute left on the clock Dennis Everberg won a puck battle on the right half-boards and made a spinning pass to the point for Brad Stuart. Stuart ripped another quality slap shot on net and Cody McLeod tried to spin for the rebound but couldn't find the puck in close. The final 60 seconds ticked by uneventfully, and the Avalanche took a 3-1 lead into the third period. The Avalanche reversed the shot trend in the second and doubled up on the Yotes 12-6.
The Avalanche's top line came out gunning in the first minute of the period. First Ryan O'Reilly handcuffed the Coyotes' goaltender with a hard backhand shot, then after cycling the puck behind the net, Alex Tanguay passed across the crease to a Gabe Landeskog on the back post of a wide open net. Landeskog was tied up by a Coyotes' defender and couldn't get his stick on the pass. As the Avs changed lines, Jordan Caron had a nice chance in the high slot, but Domingue caught the puck in his pads.
With 15 minutes left in the period Landeskog and O'Reilly put on a dazzling display on the breakout. First O'Reilly skated to the middle and looked for Landeskog out wide to create a 2-on-1 rush. O'Reilly had his pocket picked, however, and the puck squirted out towards Landeskog. Landeskog spun to grab the puck then found O'Reilly with a no look pass in the middle. O'Reilly, facing away from the net, redirected the puck on goal and Landeskog dug for the rebound. Those two made a whole lot of something out of nothing, and had another chance when Tanguay followed up the play with a pass across that was disrupted by a Coyotes player. Unfortunately, an odd man rush the other way kept the O'Reilly line on the ice for an extended shift trapped in their own zone. After a strong cycle from the Arizona Coyotes, Joe Vitale drove the Avalanche net and was tied up and pushed against the goal post by Nate Guenin. Vitale kicked at the puck and put it past Varlmov with his skate. After a lengthy video review, the officials determined a "distinct kicking motion" from Vitale, and waived off the goal.
With just under 11:00 left in the game O'Reilly made another outstanding move on the rush and borrowed a trick from Matt Duchene, to cut inside on defenseman Mark Stone before firing a wrister on net. The puck stood up on O'Reilly on the move but still got a good shot away. Better save by Domingue. As the puck went the other way Nate Guenin lost himself on the ice, spun around and nearly decapitated Kyle Chipchura. Guenin went to the box for high-sticking and sent the Coyotes to the power play for the first time in the game. Varlamov made a few good saves early on the power play and the Avalanche matched them with a number of good clears. As time was winding down on the power play Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a chance on the right side of the Avs net and appeared to hit the back of the netting with his stick. OEL celebrated but play continued without a whistle for a few minutes. Suddenly in the middle of play, the Coyotes goal horn sounded, the refs blew the whistle, and they explained that in fact Ekman-Larsson HAD scored just moments after the power play expired. On video review Ekman-Larsson took a shot from the short side, then picked his rebound out of the air with his stick, not once, but twice. The second contact came very, very close to the crossbar, and saw the puck slip out to the center of the crease, where it bounced off something in front and made its way over the goal line. The puck crossed the goal line by a few inches before Brad Stuart pulled it back out of the net. A nice trick, but with video review, his stick work wasn't quite enough. Good call by the officials on an absolutely bizarre play. 3-2 Avalanche.
Suddenly this game, which felt finished, looked dangerous again for the Coyotes. They followed their goal up with a strong shift in the Avs zone, and the Altitude staff started to talk about shortening the bench to ensure 2 points for the Avs. But 3:00 after the Coyotes goal, Dennis Everberg did his part to stretch the Avalanche lead back to two goals. Everberg carried the puck through the neutral zone and drove wide down the left side. The big Swedish Bull fired a low wrister on the near side of Domingue, then collected his own rebound and carried it below the goal line before quickly turning back and centering the puck to a wide open Matt Duchene with a wide open net in front of him. Duchene sunk his 18th goal of the season with ease and put the Avs up 4-2.
With 13 seconds left in the game, Gabriel Landeskog sealed the deal with an empty net goal, his 20th of the season. Ryan O'Reilly earned the lone assist.
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MHH Three Stars of the Game:
1. Ryan O`Reilly - 1G 1A and 5 shots on net. Without question the Avs best player tonight. Created a number of great chances out of thin air and scored a goal on a great individual move.
2. Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Man this guy is good. 2 goals and 8 shots on net
3. Freddie Hamilton - Props to the new guy for his first career goal in the NHL.
Stick tap as always to Semyon Varlamov. He was big when he needed to be in the first 5 minutes.
Unfortunately for the Avalanche, all the teams ahead of them in the Western Conference playoff race also won tonight so they gained no ground.
Next Up: The Avalanche travel to Anaheim tomorrow night to take on the Western Conference leading Ducks. Puck drops at 10:00 PM EST, 8:00 PM MST