As is custom in the last few years, the Avalanche came out extremely flat facing the Edmonton Oilers. In the first half of the first period, the Avalanche were outshot by an 11-3 margin, and the Oilers took an early lead just 5 minutes into the first frame. Pinned deep in their own zone after an icing prevented a full line change, Cliche and Guenin were caught in the corner chasing after the same man. This cause a series of defensive breakdowns, which ended in Matt Duchene being a step slow to follow Brandon Davidson down from the left point. Davidson got the inside track on Duchene, took a pass from Anton Lander, and beat Semyon Varlamov for his first career NHL goal.
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In the next 10 minutes the Avalanche started to push back against this porous Oilers defense and find some good looks at goaltender. First John Mitchell had a nice chance in front after a centering pass from Matt Duchene, then Marc-Andre Cliche fired the puck on a near-breakaway, after Dennis Everberg made an outstanding individual effort to transition the puck from the defensive zone. The Avalanche tied up the game with 6:48 to play in the first period when Ryan O`Reilly and Alex Tanguay made an excellent give-and-go play in the neutral zone to allow O'Reilly an uncontested zone entry on the right side. O'Reilly dropped the puck behind for the trailing Tanguay, then drove the net hard. Tanguay fired a slapshot towards Bachman, but the puck was slowed up by a deflection. On his way to the crease O'Reilly tracked down the rebound off Bachman's pad and reached to the far post to slide the puck past Bachman and extend his career high point streak to 8 games. Nate Guenin also picked up an assist on the goal, for something that happened almost an eternity before the goal was scored.
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Both goaltenders made some quality saves in the final few minutes, but Bachman was tested the most, as the Avalanche worked to even out the shot counter, finishing the period with an 11-15 shot deficit.
Once again the Avalanche started poorly and allowed the first 6 shots of the period to hit Varlamov. Varly made one impressive, acrobatic glove save early on a shot that was headed wide of the net. A few shifts later Rob Klinkhammer beat Jan Hejda towards the front of the net. When Zach Redmond came flying in from the other side to defend he made contact with Klinkhammer and sent him sliding into Varlamov.
The Avalanche earned the first power play just after 6:00 into the second period when Klinkhammer struck again, hooking Jordan Caron to the ice. The Avalanche failed to generate any quality chances on the power play aside from a slap pass by Ryan O`Reilly to Gabe Landeskog. The Avs' captain would have had an empty net, but the pass was just behind him and skipped off his stick into the corner. Mark Rycroft ripped the Avalanche power play during the intermission, calling it some of the worst professional hockey he's seen (apparently Rycroft was looking away during Edmonton's next goal). The Avalanche had the better of the Oilers in terms of possession after the power play, but couldn't capitalize on a number of good chances.
However, with 5 minutes to play in the period the Oilers found an Avalanche mistake on the blueline and capitalized. On a non-descript chip into the Avs' zone by Teddy Purcell, Nate Guenin failed to play a bouncing puck then lost a foot race to Justin Schultz, who was trailing Guenin by several strides to start the play. Schultz snagged the puck practically untouched and walked in on Varlamov, moved to the backhand, and scored on the breakaway.
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In the final 5 minutes the Avalanche pushed back hard against the Oilers and created a number of quality chances. Everberg had a good chance in front Matt Duchene fired a hard snap shot which broke Bachman's helmet, and Iginla set Duchene up for an empty net on a 2-on-1 but Duchene couldn't get a shot off. The period ended with the Avalanche down 2-1, they outshot the Oiler's 11-9 in the second period.
The Avalanche were unable to translate their strong offense from the end of the second period into the early minutes of the third period. The Avs best chances of the first ten minutes came from an unexpected source, Jordan Caron. Early in the period Caron received an excellent stretch pass through the neutral zone from Zach Redmond. Caron tried to beat Bachman with a backhand on the partial breakaway but was turned away. On the next shift from the 4th line, Joey Hishon flew down the left side boards with speed and entered the Edmonton zone. After drawing both Edmonton defenders past center towards him, Hishon sauced a beautiful pass across the crease to Jordan Caron on the right wing. Caron missed the net with a one-timer. The Avalanche followed up Caron's second chance with a strong shift from the Cliche, McLeod, and Everberg line, who established a good offensive cycle and wore down the Edmonton defense with a long shift in the offensive zone. Afterwards Cody McLeod and Luke Gazdic had some words in front of the net, but the referees pulled them apart.
At the 9 minute mark the Avalanche began pressing and pinching more offensively, and it showed in the odd man rushes they gave up the other direction. First Teddy Purcell was stoned by Varlamov on a breakaway, then Nail Yakupov got a chance on the right side of the slot, but his shot rang off the nearside post and slid out the far side of the net. The Avalanche continued skating hard but struggled in transition and struggled even more to establish meaningful offensive zone presence. Somewhere in the final 5:00, Patrick Roy finally tried a line of Joey Hishon, Dennis Everberg, and John Mitchell, they were predictably better than the previous third line. Unfortunately that change also came with the caveat of Cody McLeod on the 2nd line with Duchene and Iginla. At the 3:30 mark Ryan Nugent Hopkins had a chance in the Avs zone to bury a puck on a wide open net, but he missed the puck.
After a long commercial break the Avalanche came back to the ice with the net empty and a faceoff in the neutral zone. The Oilers won the faceoff and took a shot on net from their own defensive zone. The puck took a bizarre bounce off the ice and skipped up to the top shelf, giving the Oilers a 3-1 lead on the stick of Nikita Nikitin.
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Moments later the Avalanche turned the puck over in the offensive zone and surrendered another empty net goal, this time a wrist shot from Taylor Hall.
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In the final 2:00 Joey Hishon got to actually play some hockey. He responded by stealing the puck from an Oilers' defenseman on the forecheck, shooting low, and driving the net for his own rebound. Then on his next shift he carried the puck into the offensive zone, spun and fired a backhander on net. Hopefully he finally starts to get the ice time he's earned now that the Avalanche are one step closer to elimination.
MHH Three Stars of the Game:
1. Ryan O'Reilly - The lone goal, extended his point streak, and a team high 4 shots on goal (tied Brad Stuart)
2. Dennis Everberg - Great in transition and had two quality chances down low. 2nd in SOG with 3 (tied Landeskog and Hishon)
3. Joey Hishon - 3 SOG and a positive impact every time he touched the ice. Made a pass so good Jordan Caron almost scored. Maybe by making him a star here Patrick Roy will see it and play him more than Marc-Andre "I cover the wrong man on most goals against" Cliche
Goat of the Night:
Nate Guenin. The game winning goal was on his stick and he failed to make a basic NHL play.
Next Up: Wednesday the Avalanche travel to San Jose to take on the Sharks at 10:30 PM EST, 8:30 PM MST