It was Star Wars Night at Pepsi Center, as the Colorado Avalanche battled the Tampa Bay Lightning in a struggle for the Galaxy that started as a
lightsaber goalie duel, but ended with 11 goals being scored in less than a half-hour.
When all the planetary dust settled, the Avalanche fell just short, losing to the Lightning 6-5.
Let the recap begin!
The Colorado Avlanche show off their foot-speed right off the bat, catching the Tampa Bay Lightning’s defense flat footed a few times within the first six minutes. First, Nathan MacKinnon immdiately shows off his speed by beating Cedric Paquette in a foot-race in the neutral zone, before forcing goaltender Peter Budaj into making a tough blocker stop.
Then, Nail Yakupov draws his team a powerplay by winning a race to the net, forcing Victor Hedman to take a holding penalty on him. After being a scratch for the last five games, the Yak Strikes Back.
The man-advantage was ineffective with the Avs only getting one shot on goal, but not long after, MacKinnon comes back on the ice and almost sends Andrej Sustr’s bottom to the ice as he blows by him before getting yet another scoring chance off.
After a bit of sustained pressure by the Avalanche third line, the puck falls to J.T. Compher in the high slot. He shoots first, sending a bullet towards the Lightning net that Budaj is just barely able to parry away. Braydon Coburn retrieves the puck but sees a Phantom Menace, so he shoots the puck over the glass. Back to the powerplay!
The force isn’t strong with the Avs’ powerplay, because they go 0/2 on their first couple chances.
Jonathan Bernier, who got the start tonight, holds the evil empire off the scoresheet with a brilliant glove save, robbing Tyler Johnson in the slot. Bernie throws a little mustard on his glove, giving it a little flourish after making the save. Johnson was visibly fustrated as he headed back to the bench, thinking he had sealed the lead for the Lightning after a pretty commanding shift by the Bolts’ second line against the home-town rebels.
As the period comes to a close, the Avalanhe head into the dressing room feeling pretty good about themselves. They stayed fairly even in shots with the Lightning (11-15), tied them in shot attempts (20-20), and lead in scoring chances (10-7). Against the best team in the league, that’s a darn good period.
Chris Kunitz gets his stick tangled up with Mikko Rantanen in the neutral zone, and before anyone can say “it’s a trap!” the Av forward draws his ninth high-sticking penalty of the season. On the powerplay, MacKinnon and Yakupov are able to let loose a few ion blasts, but unfortunately they fail to score. That Budaj must have his net ray-sheilded.
Cory Conacher, who’s a little short for a storm strooper, gets into a little skirmish with Blake Comeau in front of Bernier’s net. Both get sent to the box for roughing.
And then the prequels happened...
Victor Hedman sends a bullet of a pass from behind own his blue line onto the stick of - arguably the best player in the galaxy - Nikita Kucherov, who streaks in all alone, beating Bernier on the blocker side.
With the teams still at 4-on-4, the floodgates appear to have opened. Tyler Johnson spots defenseman Anton Stralman jumping into the play and feeds him a pass from behind the goal-line to the front of the net.
Hedman finishes off a really quick give-and-go play, teaming up with Nikita Kucherov once again. Hedman skates past Comeau, fakes a shot - freezing Bernier in carbonite - before throwing the puck into the open net.
Yanni Gourde beats Comeau to the net, and bangs home the centering pass from Conacher. Thats their fourth goal in 5:10. Yikes.
The Avalanche get one back. General Gabriel Landeskog beats Sustr to the net by several feet before catching Yakupov’s pass and sniping the backhand over Budaj’s left shoulder. Rebellions are built on hope!
MacKinnon is inches away from giving the Avalanche their second goal, but Hedman slashes the stick out of the young Jedi’s hands and clears the puck away. MacKinnon is clearly hot and probably for good reason. It looked like a clear and goal-altering slash. What do you think? Check out the clip below.
As the intensity of the game grows, Erik Johnson slashes Vladislav Namestnikov who is driving to the net. Namestnikov gets a shot off on Bernier who stops it. Johnson runs into Namestnikov once again but this time shoves him into the boards very hard. The two teams get into a heated skirmish behind the net with Johnson ending up with a 2-minute slash, a 5-minute boarding major, and a 10-minute game misconduct. His night is done. On the other side, Kucherov gets a minor for roughing, meaning he will have to sit in the box for the Lightning’s upcoming 5-minute powerplay.
To summarize the period, the Lightning score four in a row. The Avalanche get one back. They almost get a second but fall vistim to a missed call. Going back the other way, Erik Johnson gets kicked out of the game for a very dangerous play on Namestnikov, throwing him into the boards after slashing him.
In terms of metrics, the Avalanche had more shot attempts (16-14), but got outshot (7-10), and lost the scoring chance battle (8-7). The 4-1 score-line definitely does not do justice to the way the Avalanche have played for large stretches of this game.
The Avalanche put their hard-hats on and grind their way to killing off the remaining time from the Erik Johnson major penalty. In the five minutes, the Avalanche were able to keep the league’s best powerplay to only two shots on goal. Very impressive. Cool stat here, the Lightning players combined for 50 passes during that powerplay. That’s a pass every six seconds for a solid five minutes.
Anton Stralman strikes again. This time his point shot beating a screened Bernier. Matt Nieto getting caught a little too deep there. Tampa Bay is notorious for having their defensemen jump into the play, sothe wingers must keep their heads on a swivel.
Gabe once again! Landeskog gets his second of the night, deftly tipping home a point shot from Tyson Barrie. This was career point number 300 for the young Avalanche captain. He is also the first player in the 2011 draft class to hit the milestone, beating first-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Russian superstar Nikita Kucherov who have 287 and 280 points respectively.
The Trilogy on the powerplay! Gabe Landeskog gets his third of the night with Tyler johnon in the box on a hooking penalty. Landeskog, who has his butt right in Budaj’s face, was able to tip home a second Tyson Barrie shot. His second hat-trick a month!
The hat-trick breaks an 11-year record held by Avalanche great Milan Hejduk!
Samuel Girard retrieves the puck in his own zone and starts to skate the puck up the ice. He beats his man with a quick stride and draws his second penalty of the game. This time, a slashing call against Paquette.
It was bound to happen. Nathan MacKinnon goes end-to-end on the powerplay, bringing the Colorado Avalancche all the way back. It’s a 5-4 game!
The Force has Awakened on the powerplay. After going without a powerplay goal in their last 20 tries, the Avalanche are a perfect 2/2 in their last two.
Patrik Nemeth takes a holding penalty soon after. This is a must kill for the Avalanche for the next tw- oh wait, Alex Killorn takes a tripping penalty seven seconds into the man advantage! On to some 4-on-4 hockey. Hopefully, this time the Avs will do better than the two goals against the last time both they and the Bolts were each without a man.
Ugh, nevermind. Mikhail Sergachev retrieves a rebound and tries to pass the puck back to Ondrej Palat, who had the inital shot. Unfortunatly for the Avalanche, his pass bounces off Landeskogs skate and through Bernier’s legs. Another 4-on-4 goal against.
There’s still 8:32 left in the game. Lots of time to score a few goals. Peter Budaj has definitely shown he is open for business.
And there we go! Nikita Zadorov joins the Avalanche for a rush, gets the puck at the blueline, steps up and wires a shot right by Budaj’s ear. We have a one-goal game!
Turns out Nathan MacKinnon tipped the puck in the high slot, so the goal is the second of the night for the 22-year-old forward (not to be mistaken for the 22-year-old defenseman).
Crazy stat or meaningless number? After going scoreless for the first 30:49 of the game, the two teams have combined for 11 goals in a span of 24:57. Hockey is a crazy sport. Let me know what you think in the comments.
With two minutes to go, the Avalanche pull Bernier. Don’t worry, I won’t tell you the odds.
MacKinnon had a glorious chance with 30 seconds left in the game, but Budaj robbed the young sniper of all his credits, flashing the glove. The clock ticks down, and so do the Avalanche’s chances. The boys in burgundy lose 6-5.
Thanks a lot, Lightning. You ruined Star Wars night!
The Avalanche played a good game all things considered. They went up against an opponent who has both a deep as well as consistant roster of players and they made it as tough as they could. When the game really got going after the Lightning’s first onslaught of goals, the Avalanche stars showed up.
Gabe Landeskog came up big with five points (3g, 2a).
Nathan MacKinnon had three points to his name (2g, 1a).
Tyson Barrie woke up in the second half, notching three assists of his own.
Nikita Zadorov, who is in the first year of a show-me bridge deal, collected two assists for his efforts.
Despite not hitting the scoresheet, Tyson Jost was buzzing all night long and ended as a positive 60% possession player.
Sam Girard may have been a minus-3 on the night, but he took a solid step forward away from his recent struggles, drawing two key penalties and being a positive shot-driver every time he was on the ice.
The Avalanche will stay at home and wait for the Pittsburgh Penguins who will roll into town on Monday. Puck drop at 7:00 pm MT.