For the first time since November the Avalanche dropped the puck with Reto Berra between the pipes. How did it go?
Moments before puck drop, there was no question which team looked better, as the Vancouver Canuck's donned their beautiful Vancouver Millionaires throwback jerseys. But once the puck dropped, it was the piping-clad Avalanche who got the better of the early play. Over the first 5:00 of the game, the Avalanche forechecked well, dominated possession, and outshot the Canucks by a 7-1 margin. 6:00 into the game they were rewarded for their effort with a power play when Alex Edler held Matt Duchene's stick. The Avalanche moved the puck around very quickly on the power play and looked invigorated, and on their first turnover an Avalanche forechecker flew in at a Canucks defenseman behind the Canucks net. The defenseman lobbed the puck up over the glass giving the Avalanche 1:20 of 5-on-3 power play time.
On the 5-on-3 the Avalanche were incredibly aggressive and created a number of high quality chances. Iginla fired a hard slapshot from above the faceoff dot but Lack came across and made the save. Gabe Landeskog had a chance on the back-door, but Luca Sbisa deflected the shot away. Finally Gabriel Landeskog had a chance in front of the Avs net and poked a clearly loose puck through Eddie Lack's pads. The official blew the whistle incredibly quickly, presumably for losing sight of the puck and/or assuming Lack had covered the puck in his crease. The loose puck goal was not reviewable due to intent to blow, and the Avalanche were denied the go-ahead goal. After Landeskog's no-goal the Avalanche returned to their laissez faire power play style and didn't generate another chance in their remaining 1:00 of 5-on-3 time or the 1:40 of total remaining power play time.
Successfully killing the 5-on-3 penalty gave the Canucks some momentum, as they drove into the Avalanche zone for their first extended possession. Halfway through the period Daniel Sedin skated down the left side and challenged Jan Hejda towards the Avs' net. Sedin took a stick off his hand and held Jan Hejda's stick, predictably drawing a hooking penalty on the Avalanche defenseman. The Canucks moved the puck around the ice for almost a minute on the 6-on-5 delayed penalty before the Avalanche finally touched the puck. On the power play the Canucks maintained steady zone presence and hit the post once.
Special teams continued to be the story of the period, as the Canucks chipped another puck over the glass late in the period. The Avalanche failed to create anything on the power play until the dying seconds when Ryan O'Reilly attempted a spin move and was tripped, but Gabriel Landeskog tracked down the loose puck and tried to tuck it under Lack on the short side. After the power play the Avs had one good possession shift from Dennis Everberg on the 3rd line. Everberg solo-cycled the puck around the Cancuks' zone, winning multiple battles and passing to the defense while Cliche and McLeod did... stuff. McLeod attempted to screen Eddie Lack and made more contact than Derek Dorsett approved of. When the puck headed the other way McLeod dropped the gloves with Dorsett. The fight was short and anticlimactic, with neither player landing many punches. With 5 seconds left on the clock Joey Hishon stole the puck near the Canucks bench and sent a blast of a slapshot on net and off Eddie Lack's helmet. After a brief delay for Lack to fix his helmet the first period came to an end 0-0. The Avalanche outshot the Canucks 18-5. Wut? Embrace this rare feat Avs fans:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>cheesus <a href="http://t.co/AaOxZYssd7">pic.twitter.com/AaOxZYssd7</a></p>— steph haus (@SteveHouse11) <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveHouse11/status/581286910024380416">March 27, 2015</a></blockquote>
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The Avalanche started the second period considerably more sluggish than the first and gave up a scary chance in the crease early on. Berra made the save with his pad but was awkwardly unable to cover the puck with his glove. Luckily an Avalanche defenseman cleared the puck out before a Canuck's player could take advantage of the rebound. The Avalanche would finally capitalize on an extended offensive shift from Jarome Iginla and Matt Duchene a few minutes later. After a good long offensive cycle John Mitchell came off the ice and Landeskog joined Duchene and Iginla. The Avalanche captain tracked the puck down behind the Canuck's net and skated an arc out to the high slot, deking past a Vancouver defenseman and then faking a shot before firing a wrister on net. The puck deflected off Iginla's elbow and past Eddie Lack to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead.
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With just under 13:00 to go Landeskog would create again. Ryan O'Reilly fed the captain a breakout pass with speed and as Landeskog drew the defense towards him he tried to feed O'Reilly in front. The puck deflected off a Vancouver stick and dropped just in front of Lack, but O'Reilly couldn't get good contact with the puck. On the rebound Landeskog spun and shot again but Lack made the save. On his next shift Gabe Landeskog was at it again. Landeskog went after a Canuck's forward aggressively at the Canuck's blueline, and poked the puck away giving himself a breakaway. Landeskog was denied on the breakaway but scattered Canucks defense resulting from the goal allowed for O'Reilly and Redmond to quickly cycle the puck low to high and then off the end boards to Alex Tanguay on the back door. Tanguay roofed the puck to double the Avalanche lead. 2-0. No assist for Landeskog on this one, but his massive forecheck was responsible for the goal.
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With a 2 goal lead and all the momentum the Avalanche headed back to the power play when Ronalds Kenins hooked Marc Andre Cliche. The Avalanche cycled the puck well on the power play and had an early chance for Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla. The two former Flames passed back and forth several times but neither could corral the puck well enough to get a shot off. On their next possession on the power play the Avalanche put together a beautiful tic-tack-toe sequence. O'Reilly skated below the goal line turned and dished to Alex Tanguay at the goal line, Tanguay one touched the puck across the crease to Landeskog on the back door, and Landeskog buried the goal. That's how a power play should look. Quick puck movement always finding the open man.
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The Canucks finally showed some life in the final minutes, down 3-0. Their pushback resulted in a Jarome Iginla hooking penalty that sent the Canucks on the power play for the final 1:10 of the period. The Avs killed off the first part of the penalty without incident, leaving 50 seconds to kill at the beginning of the third period. Shots 31-16 Avalanche.
Unfortunately for the Avalanche, the Canucks were unwilling to roll over and play dead for the entire 60 minutes in this game. Just 15 seconds into the third period the Cancuks cashed in on their remaining power play time when Yannick Weber beat Reto Berra on an unscreened slapshot from above the right side faceoff dot... ok then.
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The Canucks had a number of god chances in quick succession, and it was abundantly clear that the new Canucks strategy involved bodies in the crease and contact with Reto Berra.
Halfway through the period the Canucks had an incredibly long and dangerous shift in the Avalanche zone. They had several great opportunities, one blocked by a sprawling Joey Hishon. When the Avalanche finally cleared the puck, a bad pinch from the Canucks sent Marc Andre Cliche, Freddie Hamilton and Jordan Caron on a 3-on-1 rush with a chance to shift the momentum back in their favor. Cliche held the puck faked and missed everything by a mile. It was his second odd-man rush of the night, neither resulted in a shot on goal. When the puck went the other direction, the Avalanche made a bad change and were called for too many men on the ice.
The Avalanche did an excellent job on the penalty kill to deny the Canucks any quality scoring chances and clear the puck several times. Ryan O'Reilly made a pair of key defensive plays that led to a clear and John Mitchell made a nice clear up ice as well. After the power play the Avalanche gave up a near breakaway to Shawn Matthias, but Jan Hejda made an excellent defensive play to catch the forward, cut off his lane to the net, and eventually direct the puck to the corner before stripping it and clearing up ice.
With 6:00 to go and the Canucks taking control of the game, Cody McLeod recklessly stuck his leg out at an Jannik Hansen in order to make contact and was assessed a 2:00 penalty for tripping. McLeod was extremely lucky to not make contact with the knee. The Avalanche did not do as well on this penalty kill as their last one. On one particularly scary sequence, Marc Andre Cliche failed to clear the puck twice with possession of the puck. As a result the puck cycled up high where the Canucks fired a shot to Berra's left. Berra overplayed the puck and found himself well outside of his net, but the Avalanche defense collapsed into the crease to defend their net until Berra returned.
After the power play John Mitchell made a great power move to break through the neutral zone and almost escape the Vancouver defense for a breakaway. Mitchell was hooked and ended up in a scary collision tangled up in the end boards, but popped back up and finished his shift. On the Avalanche's next breakout, Gabe Landeskog was slewfooted by Linden Very, giving the Avalanche another power play with just 3:00 to go, and all but icing the Canucks' chance at a late comeback. The Avs didn't get much sustained pressure on the power play, and the Canucks pulled their goalie to make it 5-on-5 with about 1:30 left on the clock. Joey Hishon had a weak chance at the empty net from the neutral zone and missed, but moments later Matt Duchene stripped the puck from a Vancouver puck carrier on a great backcheck and passed to John Mitchell who lobbed a backhand shot into the empty net. 4-1 Avalanche, horn sounds.
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MHH Three Stars of the Game:
1. Gabriel Landeskog - 1G 1A 1GCB(GoalCalledBack) 1GCBAF(GoalCausedByAwesomeForecheck) I mean... Come on. The guy was a monster out there on the ice tonight. Absolutely dominant in every phase of the game. Could have easily had a hat trick tonight.
2. Ryan O'Reilly - 2 more points to add to his recent hot streak
3. Reto Berra - Playing back-to-back nights is tough. Doing it when you haven't started a game in over 3 months is insane. Berra looked shaky at times, but only gave up 2 goals in the 2 games and did enough to help his team win.
Stick Tap: Jan Hejda - Solid tonight and made a spectacular defensive play late when the Canucks were threatening to make it close.
Next Up: Saturday night at 9:00 EST 7:00 MST the Avalanche take on the STILL league-worst Buffalo Sabres (Arizona won tonight's toilet bowl game).