The Colorado Avalanche were unable to win their third straight game at home on Friday night, as Nicklas Backstrom wristed a power play goal from the slot just 22 seconds into overtime after a hard-fought 60 minutes.
How the game unfolded
The Capitals had gone on the power play with 1:09 remaining in regulation after Ian Cole took a terrible penalty for holding after Devante Smith-Pelly beat him out wide. Colorado did a good job of killing off the initial portion of the Washington man-advantage (enough to force overtime), but the defending champions made them pay on the 4-on-3 in the extra session.
Strong board play by noted league-wide villain Tom Wilson set up a Capitals offensive possession, and Backstrom scored the winner, his 8th overtime goal of his career (12th including playoffs).
Lest we focus on the negatives, the Avalanche surged in the third period, culminating in a Colin Wilson game-tying goal after a Cole shot, a ricochet off the head of Matt Calvert, and a bounce to his stick-side. The goal by Wilson, his fifth of the season, tied the game at two.
The play started on a strong neutral-zone play by Carl Soderberg, who by my estimation was the best Avalanche skater in the game. Soderberg also scored the game’s opening goal, his seventh of the year, off of an awesome move and pass courtesy of Tyson Jost.
The defending champs played without two of their key forwards — centre Evgeny Kuznetsov and right winger T.J. Oshie (both of whom had been concussed in the Caps’ Wednesday loss in Winnipeg) — and without starting goaltender Braden Holtby. Washington entered the game as an interesting team. By nearly every analytic model, they’re a very bad hockey team. On the other hand, they’re obviously highly talented and have a lot of returning talent from a Stanley Cup and two President Trophies over the past three seasons.
The cornerstone of that returning talent, Alex Ovechkin, was all over the place all night. He tandomed with Backstrom to score his 13th of the season to put the Capitals up 2-1 late in the second period.
On a semi-rush. Backstrom dumped it off to his partner-in-crime who lifted a top-shelf wrister from the right circle. When Ovechkin is on the ice, the defense needs to be aware of where he is at all times. The Avalanche (looking at you, Tyson Barrie) did not, and they paid dearly. The Great 8 — all 235 pounds and 33-years old of him — tallied 14 shot attempts on the night
The Avalanche had several chances (actually leading the Capitals in expected goals for, according to Corsica) but Capitals backup goalie Pheonix Copley was rock solid in net. He made a huge stop on a Nathan MacKinnon breakaway in the first period and another gorgeous save against Alex Kerfoot in the third.
Here are some other takeaways from tonight’s game
- It was Hockey Fights Cancer night in Colorado. Shoutout to everyone we know and love who have fought this terrible disease. F*ck Cancer!
- The Pepsi Center ice was really bad. There were hopping pucks, weird bounces, and an inordinate number of players losing an edge.
- Philipp Grubauer looked solid in net against his former team. His only real sins were each forgiveable: Smith-Pelly’s tic-tac-toe finish and a laser from the greatest goal-scorer ever.
- Colorado held its own on the penalty kill against the league’s most dangerous power play, holding them to only one goal on three chances. It took a 4-on-3 to beat Grubauer and the Avs
- High sticks seemed to be legal. Tom Wilson clobbered Sheldon Dries in the face and Mikko Rantanen caught Dmitry Orlov on the nose. Neither were called. It was a bizarrely-officiated game.
- The Avalanche top-line seemed to be outmatched by the Capitals top-line (centered by Lars Eller tonight in Kuznetsov’s absence) tonight. MacKinnon and Co. had a couple of opportunities on counter-attacks but it was Washington’s top trio dominating possession. Tom Wilson was on the ice for 35 shots for and just 13 against
The Avalanche will head to California to face the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. Game start will be 6:00pm MT.
See you there!