Earlier this afternoon when the Winnipeg Jets beat the Vancouver Canucks, the Colorado Avalanche's slim playoff hopes evaporated as they were officially, mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. From here on out the Avalanche are playing for future ice time, contracts, draft position, and pride. Did we mention they're playing for pride? Altitude sports would like you to know that the Avalanche are playing for pride. Pride, pride, pride.
These end of year games after playoff elimination are always strange. The Avalanche as a squad have nothing left to play for, and it showed in the first period as they laid an egg to the tune of just 3 shots on net. The early portion of this game was so "exciting' that the Avalanche broadcast spent more time spotting celebrities in the audience than they did calling the game. Semyon Varlamov faced a number of dangerous chances from the Kings' offense early, but made 8 solid saves in the first period to keep the Kings from running away. Despite some strong play from Varlamov, the Avalanche gave up the first goal of the game with just over 6:00 remaining in the first period. The play started with a sloppy neutral zone pass by Jarome Iginla which ended up on the stick of Jeff Carter. Carter headed into the Avalanche zone with Dwight King on a two-on-two. Nate Guenin and Brad Staurt both chose to slide to cover the puck carrier but neither one actually engaged Carter or touched him in any way. Their poor gap control gave him an uncontested shot on net and their double teaming of the puck carrier allowed Dwight King to bury the rebound without an Avalanche defenseman in sight.
Seriously folks, you just cant make this up.
Varlamov turned away another pair of opportunities late in the first and the Avalanche entered the first intermission down 1-0.
The Avalanche got their first goal on their 4th shot of the evening just over a minute into the second period. On the Avalanche's first rush of the period Alex Tanguay gave Gabe Landeskog the puck with a nice drop pass a few feet into the zone. Landeskog fired a puck on net which Jonathan Quick misplayed with his glove. The puck ricocheted off Quick's open glove and bounced into the crease, there, Ryan O`Reilly gave the puck an extra nudge just to be sure it would cross the goal line. Ryan O'Reilly gets credit for the goal for touching it last, but that one would have gone in without his help.
The Kings answered to the Avalanche's goal with a flurry of chances around Varlamov and eventually reclaimed the lead with an elusive "double goal." After a shot from Jeff Carter at the left point, Alex Martinez collected the rebound and fired the puck off the right post, behind Varlamov and into the back of the net. The puck bounced out quickly and the Los Angeles arena staff didn't immediately light the lamp for Martinez, so the King's defenseman grabbed the puck again and fired over a sprawling Hejda into the net for a second time in 5 seconds. Martinez of course, was only credited with the first goal.
On the next shift, Varlamov made a great pad save to deny an Anze Kopitar wraparound. The Avalanche laid an egg offensively, registering just 2 shots in the first 19:30 of the period, so Varlamov was extremely busy in his net. Varlamov's best save of the game came when he pushed across his crease in the splits to make a huge toe save on Tyler Toffoli, who tried to reach far-side on the Avs' goaltender. Late in the period the Kings' had another good chance when Jeff Carter burned Tyson Barrie for a low shot on Varlamov, then stepped around the Avs' defenseman to get at his own rebound. Varlamov stopped him with the right pad. In the final 26 seconds the Avalanche doubled their second period shot totals, first a wrister from John Mitchell that created a scary rebound, but no Avalanche players were crashing the net. The second, a wrister from Ryan O'Reilly was headed wide, but the NHL shot trackers counted it anyway. At the end of two the Kings lead the Avalanche 2-1.
The Avalanche got their third period offensive outburst out of the way early in the third period, firing 2 shots and Jonathan Quick in the first few minutes. The Avs went dead silent for the remainder of the period and floated around in their own zone while watching Varlamov turn away a handful of opportunities by the Kings. With 8 minutes left in the game Anze Kopitar skated straight at Brad Stuart and turnstiled him faster than we've seen him skate all year. Varlamov stopped the skilled Kings center.
With 2:00 left in the game Marian Gaborik skated down the left wing and sniped a 3rd goal past Semyon Varlamov's glove, quashing any hope at an undeserved comeback.
With the goalie pulled in the final minute, the Avalanche finally hit double digits for their shot total on the evening.
The Wrap Up:
The Avalanche put up a completely embarrassing 10 whole shots on goal in 60 minutes of play.
10 total shots
Just over 3 shots a period.
Thats 1 shot every 6 minutes
Only 2 players had multi shot games (O'Reilly 2 and Mitchell 3)
Mitchell and O'Reilly combined for 50% of the team's TEN TOTAL shots.
MHH Three Stars:
1. Semyon Varlamov - Kept his team within reasonable striking distance on a night where they had no business being there
Goat of the Night:
Patrick Roy - On a night when his team played like garbage and there was nothing on the line, Patrick Roy still leaned on veterans Cody McLeod, Marc Andre Cliche, Nate Guenin and Brad Stuart, while Zach Redmond, Joey Hishon, Jordan Caron, and Freddie Hamilton sat on the bench, and watched their chance to make an impression on the Avalanche front office get pissed away by replacement level veterans mailing it in. That, by the way, includes using Cody McLeod as the team's 6th attacker with the goalie pulled. Again.
The Avalanche head back to Pepsi Center for their final three games of the year, starting with a Tuesday night tilt against the Nashville Predators. Puck drops at 9:00 PM EST 7:00 PM MST