The first minute of this one was eventful as an Avalanche turnover gave Nick Foligno a great chance in the Avs slot. Foligno missed the net, then tripped Ryan O`Reilly trying to chase his shot into the Avs' corner. The Avs went to work on the power play just 1:01 into the first period and got 43 seconds of 5-on-3 time when Dalton Prout fired the puck over the glass and took a delay of game penalty. The Avalanche went to work on the 5-on-3 with a new setup, a forward on each side of the net at the goal-line, a man on each point (pinched further in away from the boards), and a man in front of the net in the high slot. The Avalanche started by slinging the puck back and forth behind the Columbus net (a new move from the Avs PP) and moving the Blue Jackets back and forth out of position. Then they cycled the puck quickly around the perimeter to take advantage of the scattered Columbus penalty killers. Alex Tanguay low on the left side, passed up high to Jarome Iginla on the left point, who one touched the puck parallel with the blueline to Tyson Barrie at the right point. Barrie sent the puck right back where Jarome Iginla who unloaded on the biscuit and put it in the basket. 1-0 Avs on the 5-on-3.
The Avs scored just 19 seconds into the 5-on-3 power play and thus preserved 1:40 of their 2nd 5-on-4 power play. Patrick Roy went with a 2nd unit of Ryan O`Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Dennis Everberg, Tyson Barrie, and Zach Redmond. Ryan O'Reilly and Tyson Barrie played a nice game of pitch and catch along the right side boards to create some space up high, then O'Reilly turned and fired a big fake slap-shot, slap-pass to Landeskog in the crease. Landeskog spun and tucked the puck far side on Curtis McElhinney to put the Avalanche up 2-0 in the first 4:00. 100% on the power play.
The Avalanche kept up the attack in early minutes after their 2nd power play goal. Their best chance came 6:00 into the game when Jan Hejda fired a puck on net through traffic, and Dennis Everberg outmuscled two defenders to fire the rebound back on net. A few shifts later Matt Duchene had a great shift in front of the Columbus net, dangling the puck between three Blue Jackets' defenders before losing it near the crease. Jordan Caron came from behind the Columbus net and battled through the entire enemy defense to get his stick on the puck and fire the loose puck on net.
After that the ice the began to tilt back in the Blue Jacket's favor, and Nick Foligno rang a dangerous shot off the Avs post (wont even affect his crazy shooting percentage). Moments later, with the Blue Jackets hemming the Avs inside their own zone, Matt Duchene hounded Scott Hartnell at the point, stole the puck, and gave himself a breakaway. Duchene made a beautiful move to undress McElhinney and beat him five-hole.
The Game quieted down significantly in the second half of the period, and while the Avalanche relented on the attack, they were very committed defensively. Dennis Everberg made a huge block with his team up 3-0, which left him hobbling to the bench. He would return to the game after the stinger. With just 1:00 left in the period, Gabe Landeskog turned the puck over in his own zone and made an excellent play to turn, recover, and prevent his man from scoring.
The first ten minutes second period was extremely ho-hum for the, but the Blue Jackets did tilt the ice back in their favor substantially. Over the course of the second period, the Blue Jackets outshot the Avalanche 17-9. The period was most interesting at it's center. With 9:30 left in the period, Jack Johnson elbowed John Mitchell in the chin on a blindside hit. Mitchell was stunned by the hit, and with his history of concussions gave Avs fans a serious scare, but he returned to the game after a brief visit to the locker room.
On the ensuing power play, the Avs had a number of good chances. First O'Reilly received a pass on the left side of the net but couldn't elevate the puck high enough to beat Bobrovsky over the shoulder. Next John Mitchell fired a hard wrist shot from the slot that deflected just over the cross bar. Finally Zach Redmond had a shot from the left point which found it's way through traffic to the low right side where Bobrovsky snagged it with the glove.
With 10 seconds left on the power play Alex Tanguay tangled his skate with Bobrovsky's and sent Columbus on a power play of their own. Like the Avalanche, the Blue Jackets were aggressive on this power play, and peppered the net with shots. Varlamov was strong all night but made some of his best saves on this sequence.
The third period for the Blue Jackets started off as a mirror image of the Avs' first period. The Blue Jackets created a great chance in the first 60 seconds of the final frame when Cam Atkinson fired a good shot on net which ricocheted off Varlamov and another player to sit in the Avs crease and eventually slide wide. Nick Foligno drove the net for the loose puck and drew a hooking penalty from Gabriel Landeskog. Varlamov made a few good saves on the power play, but for the most part the Avalanche kept the puck out of their zone.
With 15 minutes left in the third period Matt Duchene put together one of his most beautiful sequences of the season. Duchene took the puck from the left boards and moved all the way to the right while transitioning through the neutral zone. At the far boards Duchene stopped short to dodge a big check from a Columbus defender, then, seemingly without losing speed drove the near side of the net, deked across the crease and tried to tuck the puck far side. Sergei Bobrovsky made an aggressive move to lay out and seal his pad to the ice, stopping Duchene's shot, then reaching further toward his post to stop the rebound. An incredible move by Duchene and an even better save.
The Avalanche continued to give up the majority of the game's shots on goal, but they would still earn the next goal of the game. Alex Tanguay caught up to a lob pass from Tyson Barrie on right boards in the neutral zone and drove down the left wing on a 2-on-1 with John Mitchell. Tanguay waited for the Columbus defense to overcommit then pulled an amazing toe-drag to step around the sprawling defender and beat Bobrovsky on his glove side. The Columbus net-minder got a piece of the puck, but it trickled through, giving the Avalanche a 4-0 lead. Nate Guenin also picked up an assist.
With 7:00 to play Matt Duchene made his patented spin move near the left faceoff dot, and despite having his legs kicked out from beneath him, fired a dangerous backhand shot from his stomach that surprised Bobrovsky. Duchene drew the Avs 4th power play of the night on the spin. The Avs didn't generate much on the power play, but had an incredible chance late. With 30 seconds left on the power play Alex Tanguay made a beautiful saucer pass over the legs of a sprawling David Savard and onto Jarome Iginla's stick tape. Bobrovsky was quick across his crease to make the save.
With 3:30 left on the clock the Blue Jackets went back to the penalty kill when Jared Boll cross checked Dennis Everberg in the back of the head. Boll went launching over Everberg and collided hard with the boards. When he stood up, unhappy that his cheap shot had failed and disgusted that he's already been called for a penalty, he skated over to Everberg (who adjusted his helmet calm as can be and reacted to NOTHING) and slashed him in the leg. Boll was rightfully assessed 2:00 for roughing and another 2:00 for slashing, giving the Avalanche 4:00 of power play time to take them to the end of the game. The Avs didn't press much on the power play, but controlled the puck to ensure the shutout for goalie Semyon Varlamov. With 5 shutouts, Varlamov has set a new personal record for shutouts in a season.
No one wants to give up 44 shots in a night, but when you take a 3-0 lead so early, you've got to wonder about score effects creeping in. This one was never close, despite the Blue Jacket's inflated shot totals.
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Semyon Varlamov - 44 save shutout
2. Tyson Barrie - 3 assists
3. Alex Tanguay - 1G 1A
MHH Three Stars:
1. Semyon Varlamov - SHHHUUUUUUUUTTTTTTOOOOOOUUUUUUUUTTTTTTT
2. Tyson Barrie - 3 Assists gets him to an incredible 43 points this year. 7th in the NHL in D scoring.
3. Matt Duchene - A beautiful breakaway goal and an electric performance all night.
Next up: The Avalanche head to Minnesota tomorrow afternoon for their final game with the Minnnesota Wild. This one could get heated. Puck drops at 5:30 EST, 3:30 MST on Altitude.