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Game 72 Recap: Avalanche Fall 3-2 in Calgary, Slip Further from Playoffs

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The Avalanche's playoff hopes went from slim to dismal with a loss to the Calgary Flames tonight.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

After lots of local media hype surrounding the return of Jesse Winchester, the Avalanche coaching staff elected to give the Avs injured forward more time before making his season debut.  As for the rest of the lineup, Freddie Hamilton was a last minute scratch in favor of Joey Hishon.  Hishon played just his 3rd game of the season after missing time with neck and elbow injuries in the 2nd period of his 2nd game this year.

First Period:

The Avalanche started the game off well playing even hockey with the Avalanche, and the got the first great scoring chance of the game when Alex Tanguay, Ryan O`Reilly, and Gabriel Landeskog went tic-tac-toe back and forth across the ice but Landeskog didn't get good wood on the shot and deflected it off the goalie's shoulder and wide.  The big chance increased the pace of the game dramatically, as both sides started to create more offensively.  On a Tyson Barrie turnover at the offensive blueline the Flames came rushing up the ice 2-on-1, but Joey Hishon backchecked to disrupt the play and Nate Guenin did well to tie up the second man.  Moments later the Avalanche had a chance in the Calgary zone but Gabe Landeskog was drug down behind the Calgary net.  Landeskog attempted to score on a wrap-around from his stomach, but Ramo made a sliding save across, and directed the puck up ice to his teammates.  Just like this weekend in Anaheim, Brad Stuart found himself chasing the odd man rush after a bad pinch.  The Flames would not be denied on their second 2-on-1 of the period, and Lance Bouma passed across to former Avs winger David Jones, who beat Varlamov with a wrister.

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Just oer halfway through the period the Avalanche started to manage the bulk of puck possession and they were rewarded with a Josh Jooris tripping penalty.  The Avalanche started their first power play of the night by moving the puck quickly up high and setting Tyson Barrie up for a huge slapshot from the center of the blueline.  Ramo made a great sprawling glove save to deny the Avs' top scoring blue-liner.  The Avs continued to move the puck well and worked everything through Tyson Barrie at the point, but their power play ended with 42 seconds remaining when Gabe Landeskog was assessed a 2:00 penalty for high sticking.

After some time 4-on-4 and a successful Avalanche penalty kill, Matt Duchene had a beautiful chance in the Calgary zone, flying down the right wing and stepping inside on the defenseman to shoot for the far post.  The puck slipped off Duchene's stick before he could shoot and hit Ramo's pad, slowly sliding through the crease and wide of the net, but Tyson Barrie followed the rebound with another quality chance.

In the final minutes of the period the Ryan O`Reilly line was at it again.  O'Reilly broke the puck into the zone with a great pass to Alex Tanguay before driving the net.  Tanguay ripped a hard backhand pass across to Landeskog on the backdoor, but the Avs captain missed the net wide.  O'Reilly regained the puck and attempted a pass back into the slot for Tanguay, but the puck deflected up into the air.  Alex Tanguay and his smooth hands played the puck out of the air and into the back of the Flames net to tie the game at 1.

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The Avalanche outplayed the Flames for most of the second half of the period, but the Flames ridiculous luck this season would burn the Avs one last time with just seconds to go.  On an offensive zone faceoff the Flames won the puck back to their left side point and Dennis Wideman fired a floating wrist shot on net.  The puck deflected off Jiri Hudler and through a Nick Holden screen to beat Semyon Varlamov (who never saw the puck) and give the Flames a 2-1 lead with 16 seconds left.  No need to adjust monitor on the replay below, the pixels representing Brad Stuart are not frozen, he just chose not to move in any direction during the goal against.

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Second Period:

The Avalanche started the period with a minute long possession in the offensive zone from the O'Reilly line.  The shift concluded when O'Reilly sent a long cross ice pass to Nick Holden who pinched in on the right side and sent a hard wrist shot on net, handcuffing Ramo.  Ramo looked behind him, but found that the puck was trapped in his elbow/sweater.

Joe Colborne took a boarding penalty shortly after the Ramo save to send the Avalanche back on the power play, where they worked the puck effectively and had one hard shot from Jarome Iginla at the point, but Ramo stopped him low with the glove.  As the power play expired, Nick Holden made a very aggressive pinch on the left side of the net which sprung Calgary for a 2-on-1 rush (again) which quickly developed into a 3-on-1 rush as Colborne left the penalty box.  Matt Duchene sprinted back to cover the pass and force a weak shot towards Varlamov who made the save.

With 13:00 left in the period the Avalanche were trapped in their own net and down "half a man" as Alex Tanguay's stick broke, but Zach Redmond "accidentally" pushed Jooris into the Avalanche net and dislodged it, earning a line change and a d-zone faceoff.  After a brief tv timeout the Duchene line plus Nick Holden and Brad Stuart found themselves trapped in their zone again.  At the end of the extended shift, Stuart parked himself in front of Varlamov for 15+ seconds without moving.  When the puck came to him he didn't attempt a pass, but slapped the puck up ice, icing it and keeping his tired teammates on the ice.  On the next faceoff Matt Duchene singlehandedly broke the puck out of the zone, passed to Iginla, and Iginla hit John Mitchell with a beautiful setup pass on the 2-on-1.  Mitchell had a wide open net, but hit the near post.  After a line change on the fly Tyson Barrie entered the zone with speed and fired a second consecutive Avalanche shot off the goalpost.

Halfway through the period Joey Hishon rushed the puck up ice and made a solid power move to keep a Flames defenseman off him while firing a wrist shot with just his top hand on net.  The shot left a juicy rebound, but Landeskog wasn't quite fast enough to catch up to the puck before the angle disappeared.  Landeskog cycled the puck back up high to Jan Hejda who didn't get everything on his slap shot and watched the puck swallowed up by Ramo.

The Avs continued to push the pace in the second half of the period and with 7:00 left Matt Duchene made a beautiful behind the back pass to set up John Mitchell for a wide open shot on net.  Mitchell forced an extra pass through three Calgary defenders instead and turned the puck over.  Moments later an odd bounce left Mason Raymond in front of the Avs net alone, but Semyon Varlamov made an uncharacteristically aggressive poke check to try and break up the play.  Raymond still managed a shot, but Varlamov made a pad save.

In the final five minutes of the period the Avalanche jumped all over the Calgary Flames.  First the Hishon line got possession down low, then all but Briere changed, and Briere, McLeod and Cliche dominated the Flames in their zone for over a minute.  Briere and McLeod were particularly great generating a number of quality scoring chances.  The Avs followed that up with an incredible, near super-human shift from Matt Duchene.  Duchene was flying, dangling, passing and shooting all over the Flames zone and at one time received a pass in the Flames crease, took the puck spun, reached across the nearly beat Ramo over the pad. Thing. Of. Beauty.  The Avs earned their third power play of the night on the possession.

In the first minute of the power play the Avalanche generated a handful more dangerous opportunities, the best of which was a Jarome Iginla slapshot on the left side.  Dennis Wideman made a sprawling cartwheel save to deflect the shot up and off the Flames crossbar.  Have we talked about PDO tonight? PDO PDO PDO PDO PDO.  These Flames are lucky lucky lucky.  The Avs were unable to score on the power play and the second period came to an end.  2-1 Flames.

Third Period:

The Flames started a third period "prevent defense" early on, allowing the Avalanche to gain zone entry easily but focused entirely on keeping bodies between them and their own net.  As a result, the Flames never really possessed the puck in the first 5:00 of the period, but the Avalanche were also unable to generate dangerous offensive chances, only the occasional shot from the outside.  The Avs' best early chance came when Jan Hejda pinched low after a Joey Hishon rush and took a Daniel Briere pass from behind the net.  Hejda directed the puck low on net but couldn't find Ramo's five-hole.

With 14:00 remaining the Flames had their first offensive possession of the period and Matt Stajan earned a wrist shot in the high slot, but Varlamov made the save.  After a few minutes of back and forth neutral zone play the Flames put a massive dent in the Avalanche playoff hopes with another goal off a deflection.  The Flames cycled the puck high to T.J. Brodie who ripped a slapshot on net.  Lance Bouma deflected the puck past Varlamov in front.  3-1 Flames.   On the play, Avalanche "expert crease-clearer" Brad Stuart stopped skating with his man when he went into the Avalanche crease, then watched, stationary, as he tipped the puck past Varlamov.

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The Avs responded well to the goal against with a strong shift from the O'Reilly line.  Landeskog made an impressive corner to corner pass to Ryan O'Reilly on the right goal line near the net.  O'Reilly tried to beat Ramo on the short side but fanned on the shot, recovered the puck and went behind the net.  O'Reilly then slid a backhand pass towards Gabe Landeskog at the left faceoff dot and Landy fired the bad-angle shot off Ramo and into the Flames net to bring the Avs within 1 goal.

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Following the Avs 2nd goal, Patrick Roy tried a unique new strategy where he took the team's three most talented bottom six players and combined them into some sort of "Super 4th Line," dare I say, a "3rd Line."  For those keeping score, that's Hishon, Everberg, and Briere together.  A few shifts later the Duchene line pinned the Flames in their defensive zone until Nate Guenin made a mistake on the right point to let the puck escape the zone.  The Flames rushed down the ice where Nick Holden had easy possession of the puck.  T.J. Brodie out-muscled Holden, took the puck and created a very dangerous chance for Mason Raymond in front.  Holden then fanned on a clearing opportunity and turned the puck over to a Flames defenseman at the point.  The dman unloaded a slapshot which Daniel Briere sacrificed his body to block.  Briere went to the bench in pain to a chorus of Avalanche stick taps.

In the final minutes of the game the Flames amped up the intensity of their forecheck and created some opportunities in transition.  Nick Holden stopped a 2-on-1 chance for Jooris with a well timed swim play to deflect the cross ice pass.  The newly formed Joey Hishon line was the next one on the ice with under 3:00 to play, and they were the first to break through the Flames forecheck and get the puck on net.  Hishon fired a weak shot which Ramo covered and the Avalanche forced an offensive zone faceoff.  The next minute of play saw Varlamov doing everything he could to get to the bench and the Avalanche doing everything they could to turn the puck over and keep him in net.  Finally with 1:50 on the clock Varlamov made his way to the Avalanche bench and the Avalanche dumped a puck in which got stuck on the back of the Flame net (oh look more bad luck).  The Avs were forced into a neutral zone faceoff since they were the ones to dump the puck in.  In the final minute the Avalanche top line finally established a cycle in the Flames zone, but when Tyson Barrie shot the puck he hit a Flames' shin pad. After stopping a Flames opportunity the other way the Avalanche attempted a few frantic rushes up the ice, but they could never get a shot on net.  Game over.  The Avalanche lose their game in hand on the Jets and sit 9 points back of a playoff spot with 10 games to play.

Plain and simple the Avs did not get the bounces tonight that they needed to win and the Flames got a pair of deflection goals.  That's that.

Three Stars of the Game:

1.  Gabe Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly - 2 points each.

2.  Tyson Barrie - Monstrous all game. Moved the puck forward all night long.

3.  Matt Duchene - The most dominant player on the ice in period two. Had 5 shots on goal.

Goat of the Game:

The "Goat of the Game" award goes to Brad "Partially Culpable on all 3 Goals" Stuart.

Next Up: The Avalanche visit the Oilers on Wednesday at 8:00 EST, 6:00 MST