Thursday night marked the final game that the Colorado
Avalanche will play against an Eastern Conference opponent. This was a special
occasion, as the final opponent was goalie Craig Anderson’s former team, the
Florida Panthers. Anderson, after being knocked out from the first meeting this
year, was looking to bounce back and have a solid performance.
Anderson not only bounced back with a shutout performance, but
is now in a four-way tie in the NHL for shutouts with seven, sharing honors with Martin Broduer, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Tomas Vokoun.
Although the game ended with an Avalanche victory, the
beginning of the game did not give that feeling at all. During the first
period, the Avs came out flat and were more conservative then they usually are.
This was probably due to the fact that they blew a 4-1 lead against the
Vancouver Canucks, only to see that lead to disappear in a 6-4 loss. The Avs were attempting to dump and chase, but were not having
much success and saw a back and forth first period.
“We usually keep it relatively kind of calm in here,” said
Matt Hendricks. “Guys are kind of having fun staying loose. But, tonight there
was a real sense of urgency among the boys, and we knew we had to play a full
With a terrible start to the game, the Avs turned things
around in the second period, and were able to get pressure down in the Panthers
zone. With the strong pressure, it didn’t take the Avs very long to score in
Paul Stastny backhanded in a rebound off Vokoun, with the initial
shot coming from the stick of Brett Clark.
“He had it first and was going to shoot it,” said Stastny. “I
went in front of him and gave it to Clarky. He wanted to shoot it and two guys
slip, so great patience by Clarky to wait it out.”
After Stastny’s goal, the Avs got some confidence back and
started to open up the ice and generate some scoring chances. With the up tempo
play and the stronger presence in the Panthers zone, the Avs made the Panthers
commit a mental error with a too-many-men on the ice penalty.
During the Avs power-play, Radek Dvorak took a roughing
penalty which gave the Avs a 5-3 for 13 seconds. It didn’t take long for
Stastny to get his second goal of the game, as he received a pass from Chris
Stewart to make it a 2-0. The goal came 14 seconds after the Dvorak penalty,
and happened as Cory Stillman was returning to the ice from the penalty box.
By the end of the second, the Avs were in full control of
the game, and were heading into the break with ice tilted in their favor.
However, after the terrible performance against the Canucks during their last
outing, the Avs knew they had to come out strong in the third to ensure the
This was something that the Avs did not do.
The Panthers came out with more energy in the third period,
which put the Avs on their heels and saw the Panthers generate some scoring
chances. In addition to the scoring chances, the Panthers were wreaking havoc
in the Avs zone, which led to many defensive zone turnovers.
The third period was also the period where the Panthers were
finally able to test Anderson, who stood tall and turned away shot after shot.
By the middle of the period, the ice started to even out and
the Avs were starting to generate some odd man rushes due to the pressure from
the Panthers. Matt Duchene had an excellent scoring chance, as he had Vokoun
out of the net, but was stopped by a sprawling save from defenseman Dmitry
With the time winding down, it was becoming apparent that
the next goal was going to decide the game, and with the Panthers creating more
scoring chances, the game was becoming very tense.
With less than four minutes to go in the game, Hendricks found
himself on a breakaway and was able to deke and put it past Vokoun.
“I don’t really know what happened,” stated Hendricks. “There
was a turnover, too- many-men on the ice. Ended up with a breakaway and luckily
it went in.”
The goal by Hendricks deflated any chance of a come-back
from the Panthers, and gave the Avalanche the two crucial points that they
“Absolutely,” Anderson said on the shutout against his former squad. “Know some guys there right
now. But for me, this is my team here in Colorado and this is the guys I am playing
for right now. I just want to more or less beat up teams I use to play for. It’s
a good feeling.”