One of my favorite aspects of hockey is that one great player can't carry a team by himself. If hockey's national media is to be believed, Connor McDavid can part Red Seas of defenses and score pucks at will with the precision of Zeusian lightning strikes. While the young phenom certainly looked the part through many stretches of the game, it turns out he still plays on the last place Oilers, who are well on their way to yet another high lottery pick. Colorado won tonight 3-2 with four steady and balanced lines, adequate defense, and more solid goaltending from backup Calvin Pickard.
Edmonton got on the board first, just 7:14 into the opening frame. The Oilers fired three straight shots at Pickard, the first two rebounding hard past Avs defenders Erik Johnson and Francois Beauchemin, both in position to corral the puck. The third shot came from Taylor Hall, who scored on a scrambling Pickard for his 20th on the season. But the Avs were playing really well, particularly the line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Alex Tanguay. The sustained momentum and control in Edmonton's zone led to a tying John Mitchell goal four minutes later, the highlight being another fantastic cross-ice pass from Blake Comeau, who's really starting to gain a reputation for these types of plays.
Colorado's first lead would come early in the 2nd Period on a rush in Edmonton's end. Crisp passing from every player led to the puck landing on Tyson Barrie's stick, who buried his ninth goal of the season and made the game 2-1. Matt Duchene and Jarome Iginla got assists, but it really was a shame more could not be doled out.
Barrie, not satisfied, would score his tenth early in the 3rd period, shooting through the legs of Matt Hendrick's unintentional screen. Now up two goals, the Avs reverted back to conservative tendencies, but Pickard was mostly up to the task. They got a bit of scare a bit later in the period when Edmonton put a puck in the net, but was soon discovered Taylor Hall had ran the Avs goalie inside the blue crease. The Oilers challenged, arguing MacKinnon had pushed Hall prior to the contact, but the NHL would ultimately not overturn the play.
It wasn't until the Oilers pulled their goalie with 4:00 minutes left (taking a page from the Patrick Roy handbook), when they finally scored again. Benoit Pouliot scored his 14th of the year with just 1:41 remaining to draw the game to 3-2. The Avs iced the puck numerous times trying to score on Edmonton's empty net, but would be unsuccessful until the final buzzer rang.
The Avs earned another crucial two points, bringing their yearly total to 66 on the season, and moving them back into the first Western Conference wild card spot after Nashville's OT loss. Colorado will travel to Vancouver tonight to play the Canucks tomorrow for their second game of the back-to-back.
- Tyson Barrie - Number four was a monster tonight. Plus-10 5v5 CF with two goals and one assist. The Avalanche are a tough team to beat when Tyson plays like this. After a number of tough games, it was great to see this kind of performance.
- Gabriel Landeskog - Just a secondary assist on Barrie's second goal, but that doesn't tell the full story. The Captain has been money on every line he's played on recently. Right now, he's lending his magic to MacKinnon and Tanguay, and both had their best games since the All-Star break. This group wore down the opposing defense and really probably deserved better scoring results.
- Jack Skille - It's hard sometimes to know what a bottom-six player contributes until he's out of the lineup. When Skille missed five games with a concussion recently, it was felt throughout the entire roster. He skates the puck up the boards as hard and fast as anybody and is a major asset in small minutes. Would the Avalanche be remiss to offer him an extension at some point before the season ends? I'm not sure you are going to find a better fit on the bottom line.