It was a bitter cold Monday night in Denver, as the Colorado Avalanche hosted the Detroit Red Wings in the final meeting between these two teams.
The previous meeting between these two teams ended in overtime, with a Red Wings win. However, the Avs had out-played the Red Wings the entire game, but failed to kill penalties, which saw the Avs having to come back and eventually lose.
Monday night’s game was personal and the Avs wanted to come out with a bang, and that is exactly what they did.
Paul Stastny got things going with his 16th goal of the season, at the 5:58 mark in the first period. Although Stastny got the Avs the early lead, the Red Wings came back in under a minute to tie the game at 1-1.
It seemed as if this game was going to be a see-saw match between the two clubs, but then Matt Duchene took control of the game.
Eight and half minutes in the first, Duchene sent a shot between the legs of Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and regained the lead for the Avs. Four minutes later, Kevin Porter would expand the lead by adding his eighth of the season. Two minutes after Porter’s goal, Duchene and Tomas Fleischmann had a nice tic-tac-toe pass to give Duchene his 18th goal of the season.
“We had some opportunities and we jumped on them and we were able to convert them,” said Duchene. “”When you’re able to do that, things go pretty well.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock pulled Howard after Duchene scored his second goal. Howard was pulled after letting in four goals on ten shots and was replaced by Joey MacDonald.
Brian Rafalski would score a late goal in the first to cut the deficit to two, but the Red Wings still had their work cut out for them, as Peter Budaj was playing with a lot of confidence. With the Avs dominating the first period, it wasn’t a surprise that the Wings did their best to control the puck and send many shots towards Budaj. Still, Budaj remained strong in net and did his best to keep the Avs ahead.
With six minutes gone in the second, Duchene and David Jones found themselves in a similar situation as Fleischmann and Duchene did. Duchene made a nice pass to Jones to extend the lead to five, with Jones scoring his 14th of the year.
“I actually got a nice, little boost from (Fleischmann) in the neutral zone,” said Jones, who had two assists. “He kind of pushed me with his stick and Matt made a nice pass and I was able to put it in. We were going to the net hard tonight.”
Everything was going the Avs way, as they had a commanding three goal lead against one of the top teams in the Western Conference. That was until Avs forward Greg Mauldin was called for tripping, and the 29th ranked penalty-kill in the NHL had to hold off the third ranked power-play in the NHL. Something that the Avs were unable to accomplish and saw the three-goal lead down to two. Henrik Zetterberg scored the power-play goal, as he was fed a pass from Tomas Holmstrom, who stole the puck away from Budaj before he could cover it up.
The power-play goal didn’t translate well for the Avs, as the Wings came out in the third and took control of every aspect of the game. They controlled the puck in the Avs zone, sent shot after shot towards Budaj, and forced the Avs to commit another penalty.
The third penalty against the Avs would also see the Wings score another power-play goal, to cut the Avs lead to one. Holmstorm tipped a Zetterberg shot past Budaj, who had no chance on stopping the puck.
“We knew they were going to come out hard and not just lay down there,” said Budaj, who finished with 26 saves on the night. “They were going to battle hard, and they did. They have a lot of skill and they scored a couple nice power-play goals. But we stuck with it and we didn’t panic.”
The Avs didn’t panic and were able to hold off the Red Wings from coming back to tie the game. Despite many chances from the Wings, Budaj and the Avs played well to prevent a game-tying goal.
Although the Avs survived an onslaught of Red Wing chances, the penalty-kill was still the weak spot for this high scoring team.
“Our special teams need to be way better,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.
With the win, the Avs hit 50 points on the season. In addition to the win, the Avs finally snapped their losing ways, in which they were able to score more than three goals, and secure a victory without needing an overtime period.
“When we play to our ability, especially with the way we’re playing 5-on-5 lately, we’re a very good team,” Sacco said. “When you play a team like Detroit, it’s not hard to get motivated. It just goes to show when we do come ready to play, like we were tonight, we can play with anybody.”