Anderson Shines Bright as Avs Defeat Devils

Saturday
the Colorado Avalanche returned home after a three game road trip.  The road trip started out rough with a loss
to Carolina, but then the Avs got it together to
end with two strong wins over Buffalo and Calgary.  Enjoying sole possession of first place in
the Northwest division, Saturday afternoon the Avs would try to keep their momentum
going against the New Jersey Devils

Clearly one
of the best teams in the NHL, the Devils sit at the top of the Eastern Conference
with 65 points.  For the Avs, the game
offered a chance to test their metal against elite competition.  The game would also feature a matchup of Avs’
goaltender Craig Anderson and one of the best and most experienced NHL goalies,
Martin Brodeur

The packed
crowd was roaring as the puck dropped, and they had even more to cheer about
just 2:24 into the game, when David Koci and Andrew Peters dropped their gloves
to trade punches. 

Standing up
to a clear attempt to impose intimidation gave the Avs the momentum, which they
used to their advantage as Chris Stewart quickly tapped a one-timer into the
net—a one-timer that was set-up by a precise pass through traffic from Paul
Stastny.  This gave the Avs an early 1-0
lead.

With 1:30
left to play in the first period, from deep in the zone T.J. Galiardi launched
a rocket slap-shot past Brodeur.  With this the Avs went into the locker room
with a 2-0 lead. 

The second period
was all defense and there was plenty of entertaining action as the play got
intense and physical, featuring two fights. 
The first fight was between the Avs’ Ryan Wilson and the Devils’ Mark
Fraser.  Wilson had just landed a brutal check that
knocked the Devils’ Patrik Elias out of the game.  Fraser took offense, and minutes later he
went after Wilson.  Wilson
held his ground, energizing the Avs and the crowd.

Then, with about
six minutes left in the period, the Avs’ Matt Hendricks tangled with the
Devils’ Rod Pelley.  Big mistake, as it
shifted momentum to the Devils, who finished the second period strong, but
without a goal.

The Devils’
momentum carried into the third period and translated into a goal by Rob
Niedermayer, who one-timed a nice pass from Pandolfo into the net.  This cut the Avs lead in half, 2-1. 

The Avs
have struggled to close out games recently. 
With a tight-as-it-gets 2-1 lead and with most of the third period still
remaining, the Avs would be called upon to close another very tight game. They
responded well to the pressure by maintaining control of the puck and instigating
steady offensive pressure to keep the puck out of their defensive zone. 

With just
3:00 left to play in the game, an untimely Avs penalty gave the Devils a power play.  This set the stage for a spectacular final 3
minutes.  With the advantages of a power
play and a pulled goalie, the Devils brought severe offensive pressure to the
Avalanche side of the ice.  The Devils’
launched a barrage of shots on goal, but each great shot was matched with an
even better save by Anderson.

After one highly impressive save, Anderson held the puck up
high with his bare hand to let the refs know he had it.  At this the crowd exploded.  The Avs won the face-off, the defense cleared
the puck out of their zone, and Wojtek Wolski scored an empty-netter to seal
the 3-1 victory.

“We
couldn’t have done it without the crowd’s energy, they were great,” said
Anderson, who was by far the star of the game. 
“We’re playing great as a team and doing a good job of working
together.”

For Anderson the victory was
especially satisfying as he out-dueled one of the leading goaltenders in the
league in Martin Brodeur. 

“He’s one of
the best,” said Anderson. “And when you’re facing the best you know you’re gonna have to bring your best
stuff too.”

T.J.
Galiardi also came through by slapping what ultimately proved to be the
game-winner past Brodeur. 

“This is a nice
confidence builder for us coming into this homestand,” said Galiardi.  “Hopefully we can keep it rolling…it’s
important to not let home games slip away.”

The most
impressive aspect of the victory was that the Avs out-played one of the best
teams in the league, dominating the Devils on both sides of the ice. 

“We had
some good jump in the game,” said Avs head coach Joe Sacco. “To beat a team
like that is a great achievement because that’s one of the best teams in the
league right now.  When you’re playing a
top-tier team it’s human nature to have a little more motivation.” 

The extra motivation
showed as the Avs won face-off battles, killed four penalties, skated and passed
with great efficiency, and played with tremendous energy for most of the
game. 

“Today was a good feeling,” said
Sacco. “It was an exciting game, it was exciting for the fans, and a lot of
good positive energy was out there.”

Next up for
the Avs, they’ll try to keep their momentum going and their first place spot in
the Northwest Division secure when they take on the Edmonton Oilers at home on
Monday night.

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