In the 7th meeting between Nova Scotia natives Nathan MacKinnon and Sidney Crosby, the younger of the two came out with the hard-earned victory.
Coming into the game, neither player has made a big impact when they line up against each other. In 7 games between the two, MacKinnon had 3 points (1g, 2a) while Crosby boasted 2 points (1g, 1a).
As far as a point total goes, tonight was no different - though MacKinnon would have something to say about that.
The Avalanche came into Pittsburgh after defeating the Florida Panthers a few nights ago, after washing the stink off from a 4-game losing streak. They continued their winning ways tonight with a 2-1 victory over the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions.
In typical Avalanche fashion against superior teams, they came out flat-footed in the 1st and were quickly worked over by the Penguins.
It wasn’t until the 10th minute mark that the Avalanche finally got the spark they were looking for, as J.T. Compher made a shifty move around former Av Matt Hunwick - but instead of shooting, tried to dish it back to Colin Wilson and was stuffed by a sliding Hunwick to save the goal.
Compher Has Been Hanging Out With Comeau Too Muchhttps://t.co/yHQW0qEtKB— Nathan Rudolph (@AvalancheReview) December 12, 2017
After a good kill against the 2nd best PP team in the league, the Avalanche would seem to get on the board first with a slippery move by MacKinnon - who undressed Letang at the blueline before going five-hole against Jarry.
But in typical Avalanche fashion, this goal was challenged by Pittsburgh for being offside - and with the no-calls the Avalanche have been getting this season, you can see where this was going. It was a tough call to make as it looks to be right on the line, but you can be the judge of that.
That’s as close as it gets. pic.twitter.com/Fi2VhdHwJm— Jesse Montano (@jessemontano_) December 12, 2017
The view of the call was inconclusive at best, and if the NHL was looking for any sort of consistency this year that goal should have counted. But alas, it didn’t, and the Avalanche came out of the period still scoreless and being outshot 13-6.
The Avs played a much better 2nd period through and through. Both teams managed 11 shots in the period, and none came nearly as close as J.T. Compher’s open look from the slot - which was saved by Jarry.
This season, Compher has had a plethora of these opportunities. Whether it’s a short handed breakaway, a wide open look from the slot, or a juicy rebound, he just can’t seem to finish.
Compher all alone in the slot, but can't beat Jarry. Still scoreless! pic.twitter.com/BmHmMgdBXH— Avalanche Gifs (@Avs__Gifs) December 12, 2017
The power-play for the Avalanche continued to falter, as they were rewarded a short 5 on 3 that was immediately negated by a MacKinnon slash. A 4 on 3 powerplay left a lot of open ice for players, but to the Avalanche it looked as though the ice had instead shrunk. They just couldn’t find any consistency, once again, in setting up a decent looking power-play.
Much of the 2nd period was a defensive board battle between the two teams, which didn’t warrant many scoring chances.
Pittsburgh was on fire to start the 3rd period, controlling the play with sustained pressure in the Avalanche zone for the first 5 minutes of the frame.
But that’s the great thing about hockey. All it takes is one shot to completely change the momentum of the game - and that came at 6:17 in the third period, when a shot from the point by Barberio got deflected off a Pittsburgh player and past Jarry’s glove. 1-0 Avalanche.
The Avalanche were able to hold off Pittsburgh’s counter attack for much of the third period with a little help from another powerplay opportunity that was squandered.
Blake Comeau almost got the Avs up by 2 with a little less than half a period to go, but Jarry made a sprawling pad save that should, but won’t, go on SportsCenter Top 10 plays of the night.
Comeau would have his revenge, though, as he buried an empty net goal with 1:30 to go in the game that was set up by numerous Erik Johnson shot blocks with the goalie pulled for Pittsburgh. EJ sold the body out to keep the puck away from Bernier towards the end of the game, and he deserves all the credit setting up that empty net goal.
Pittsburgh wouldn’t go quietly, as they were finally able to break through with 11 seconds in the game. Some hard work behind the Avalanche net that set up Phil Kessel short side, and Bernier lost what would have been a stellar shutout.
11 seconds can seem like an eternity, but the Avalanche were able to close out the victory with a big win in Pittsburgh. They travel to the nation’s capital tomorrow with a tilt against the Capitals.
- Tyson Jost had one of his best games of the season. He failed to register a point but seemed to have more confidence with the puck in the corners and on the breakout. He ended the night 3rd highest CF% on the team with 54.55. Barberio lead team with 60 and J.T. Compher a close second at 58.82.
- The powerplay again was a big disappointment tonight, going 0/4 with the man advantage. Bednar made some changes to the first unit by adding Jost to the forward group but Barrie needs to be taken off quarterback duties. He forces too many passes that are easily predictable by the opposing team. The Avalanche are scoreless on their last 11 powerplay opportunities and currently rank 19th in the NHL.
- On the other side of the special teams coin, their penalty kill unit was fantastic. Pittsburgh came into the game 2nd in the league with PP% and the Avs were able to kill off all 3 penalties they took. Shutting down Crosby/Malkin/Kessel/Letang is no easy feat. Doing it 3 times should exhibit some kind of reward.
- Though Jonathan Bernier went relatively untested until the third period he still finished the game with 39 saves on 40 shots and looked comfortable in net all night. You wish he could have had that last one back for the big shutout win but you can’t blame him for that, the puck was on and off Kessels stick in a hurry.
- J.T. Compher continues to play big minutes for the Avalanche late in games. He’s become a very consistent two-way center and won many key faceoffs in the defensive zone. Now if only he would bury his chances.
- Pittsburgh is going to look at this game and circle one statistic with a big red sharpie - and that was the give away ratio. The Penguins had a total of 16 give away’s which is unacceptable by any NHL coaching standards. None of which led to any goals but they were coughing up the puck in front of Jarry all night.
- Kerfoot left the game in the second period, after blocking a shot from Erik Johnson. While he hasn’t been a true game-changer for the team this year, another injury would be another nuisance for the club, who have been battling their health all season so far.
The Avalanche will travel to D.C. to take on the Capitals on Wednesday night with Semyon Varlamov between the pipes against his old team. The Capitals also played on Tuesday night so both squads will be running on reserves.
The last time these two teams met the Avalanche laid it on them 6-2 at the Pepsi Center. Puck is set to drop at 5pm MST.