The Colorado Avalanche started to see some return tonight on its trade deadline moves, but the team dipped back into its old bag of tricks after claiming a two-goal lead in the 2nd Period, and barely squeaked out an important 3-2 victory.
Gabriel Landeskog gave the Avalanche an early lead on an Alex Petrovic-induced power play. Calvin Pickard got it started when he cradled the puck after the initial faceoff and pushed it up the ice to Tyson Barrie. Barrie then hit Landeskog, who powered through three Panthers defensemen up the middle of the ice to score a wide-open break away goal, his 16th on the year (Video).
Florida would tie it up a few minutes later, just moments after a power play of their own. After Chris Bigras failed to clear the puck from below his goal line, the puck fell on Jaromir Jagr's stick, who dished low to Aleksander Barkov, who made a perfect cross-ice pass to Erik Gudbrandson to make it one goal a piece (Video). The play was notable because it gave Jagr his 1,850th career point, tying him for 3rd all-time with Gordie Howe.
But the Avs would find the back of the net once more before the end of the 1st Period. Mikkel Boedker, playing in just his second game wearing a Colorado uniform, caught a Tyson Barrie pass right in front of the net and elevated the puck over Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo for his first goal as an Avalanche and 14th on the year (Video).
Colorado was still rolling in the 2nd Period when Matt Duchene lured Brian Campbell from his low defensive position and juked him out of his breezers with his patented Spin-O-Rama move. Duchene then skated to the middle of the ice, deked once, and then buried a wrist shot past Luongo to put the Avs up 3-1 (Video).
Avalanche fans are pretty familiar now with what happens with an early two-goal lead. It's time to button down the hatches, board up the windows, and huddle in the basement because the storm's a comin'. Brian Campbell brought Panthers back to within one later in the 2nd with wrister from the high slot, a result of some poor transition defense, but also of sheer statistical probability. Outside of a couple of prime breakaway chances -- one resulting in a missed Nathan MacKinnon penalty shot -- the Avs began their favorite game of chip, dump, and get-stuck-in-their-zone for the rest of the game. The cardiac ward at Denver Health tonight is surely busier.
Fortunately, Calvin Pickard was mostly impervious to the Florida onslaught, because he stopped 24-of-24 shots in the 3rd Period alone. He saved his team on numerous occasions and very likely earned himself another start on Saturday in place of the struggling Semyon Varlamov.
- Calvin Pickard - Stopping 38-of-40 shots will get the attention of your coach, especially when the starter is struggling. Picks isn't the biggest or flashiest goaltender, but he's generally in the right position and makes aggressive plays when he needs to. Having a good backup goaltender is a great problem to have.
- Gabriel Landeskog - The captain has been an absolute force for a number of weeks now, skating as strong on the puck as anyone in the league. Tonight, he was finally rewarded with a goal on a fantastic individual effort and tallied an assist for good measure.
- Mikkel Boedker - It wasn't all roses -- probably should have been his back-check on the second Panthers goal -- but he showed tonight why the Avalanche were so keen to acquire his services. Made a lot of great passes, drove possession, and finished with nice hands around the net. He'll get more effective on the power play as he acclimates. Good showing.
- The World's Worst Icing Call - Shawn Matthias was ten feet beyond the closest defenseman retrieving a long pass in the corner -- and the referee inexcusably missed the entire play, blowing the whistle and putting the Avs back in their zone for a face-off.
- And the schmuckiest nonsense of all? I believe the graph below makes my point: STOP GIVING UP WITH LEADS!!!