Captain Gabriel Landeskog came up HUGE with two late goals and the Colorado Avalanche claim victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in another fast and entertaining tilt.
Given that Colorado has only played two games so far in 2016-17, it’s too early to discern any real patters, but one can’t help but notice disconcerting early deficits in both games. Twice now, they’ve committed stupid penalties and given up soft goals to trail 2-0 before most of the bench could even take a shift. Fortunately, they roared back with five unanswered goals against the Stars on Saturday; and tonight we saw another quick response, if not quite to the same extreme.
After Phil Kessel and Matt Cullen’s early goals for Pittsburgh, Jarome Iginla got one back on a 5-on-3 power play—yes, you read that correctly. Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie chipped in for assists, continuing their scoring from the other night. Then, not to be outdone by former DU teammate Joe Colborne, Patrick Wiercioch tied the game up just 1:23 later with a blast from the blue line, this time with Rene Bourque and Fydor Tyutin registering apples.
The second period would feature a couple of nearly missed opportunities for the Avs early and then a WHOLE lot of Pittsburgh Penguins in the second half. This was probably the first real extended system breakdown of the season, with numerous skaters, forwards and defensemen alike, unable to clear the puck from their zone. Fortunately, Calvin Pickard was up to the challenge, facing 26 shots at the net and turning away every last one of them.
Avalanche fans saw improved play in the third, but also some untimely penalties that kept their momentum in check much of the period. Right after getting an Evgeni Malkin goal waived off for slashing Pickard at the 12:52 mark, Joe Colborne got sent off the ice for slashing Chris Kunitz. The resulting power play ended with a Trevor Daley goal for Pittsburgh to put them up 3-2.
But Colorado would get one back of their own with 6:42 left in the game. Gabriel Landeskog, who had been snake bitten for much of the evening finally got one past Marc-Andre Fleury, blasting a cross-ice power play pass from Mikhail Grigorenko to tie the game.
When the clock ran out, the teams were tied, but overtime would only last 22 seconds after yet another Gabriel Landeskog goal. The Avalanche now move to 2-0 and will take on the Washington Capitals tomorrow night in our nation’s capital.
Gabriel Landeskog — Simply beastly all night, but couldn’t find the net until the end of the game. Tonight is a prime example why you don’t give up. Hockey is a game of percentages pucks were going to get past Fleury eventually. Great effort in a big win.
Colborne, Rourque, and Gourque — Nice night for the bottom line tonight. They didn’t play huge minutes, were subtly effective in just about all of them. Gabriel has proven to be more than useful on the penalty kill and the three combined to help drive a couple of nice possessions
The second line — Soderberg, Grigorenko, and Duchene were getting killed early in this game. Not sure if you can chalk it up to deployments, off nights, or what, but it wasn’t good. Fortunately Coach Bednar recognized this and split it up before the game got out of hand. We’ll see if they try it again tomorrow night, but I think we see a small adjustment at minimum.
Penalties — Six penalties won’t get it done most nights on the road against good hockey teams. Sure, one of them was a matching roughing penalty for Jarome Iginla at the end of the second, which was about the equivalent of the a boxer wrapping his opponent while on the ropes—but still, let’s play cleaner hockey, guys.