Sunday night in Denver the smoking hot Colorado Avalanche were aiming to win their sixth game in a row, however the always solid Montreal Canadiens were in town with plans to extinguish the flames. In a close and hard-fought contest, the Avalanche defense stayed hot throughout the third period and the home team left the ice to celebrate their sixth straight win.
“We got a good thing going,” said Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco, “but we have to keep it going; we can’t get too high. We should be proud of winning six in a row, but this [season] is a marathon, not a sprint.”
The Avalanche started the game strong, controlling the puck, bringing solid offensive pressure and launching good shots, however they were unable to score.
Then, with 9:20 left in the period, a high sticking penalty on the Avs’ Philippe Dupuis turned the tide of the period in favor of Montreal. Just nine seconds into the Canadiens’ power play, the Habs capitalized on their advantage as Tomas Plekanec delivered a nice pass through the center of the zone and Michael Cammalleri one-timed the puck into the net.
With 1:57 left in the first period Canadiens’ Jaroslav Spacek was called for a hooking penalty, giving the Avs a power play opportunity. With only five seconds remaining in the period, from the top of the left circle Avs’ defender Ryan Wilson launched a rocket slap-shot that flew past Habs’ goaltender Carey Price and into the top-shelf of the net, evening the score at one apiece just before the first intermission.
Less than two minutes into the second frame, the Canadiens went on another power play due to an interference penalty on the Avalanche’s Brandon Yip. Again, the Habs made good use of their advantage as they patiently positioned themselves in the avs zone, efficiently passed the puck around, and with the Avs off-balance Scott Gomez bounced a slap shot off of Avs goaltender Craig Anderson and Habs defender Alexandre Picard swiftly knocked the rebound into the net to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead.
The Avs responded immediately, as just seconds later Kevin Porter got the puck from the neutral zone, skated past the Canadiens’ defenders on a breakaway and back-handed the puck into the net to tie the score again.
Both teams took turns applying pressure, setting up plays and releasing good shots, but both net minders responded to the challenge with brilliant saves to keep the score deadlocked at 2-2.
Then, with 3:48 left in the second period, the Avs unleashed a wave of pressure. Bombarding the Habs’ zone and crowding the net with skaters and shots, T.J. Galiardi was able to knock a loose rebound past Price and give the Avs their first lead of the night. Though it was a controversial goal because it appeared to hit Galiardi’s skate, upon review the goal was upheld by the referees, and after an intense and action-packed second period the Avs went to the locker room with a 3-2 lead.
The Canadiens kicked off the third period skating with passion, and they were able to generate numerous offensive attacks including two power plays that had the Avalanche skating on their heels to play defense much of the third period. But despite the relentless pressure of the Canadiens, solid defense by the Avalanche accompanied with brilliant saves by Anderson kept the lead in-tact and secured the Avs’ sixth victory in a row.
“I like the rhythm of our defense right now,” said Sacco commenting on the third period action. “They’re playing well together and they’re getting more familiar with each other…I’d play [our] sets against anyone.”
Anderson, who made 27 saves to seal the victory, also credited the defense for the win: “I just want to give my team a chance to win,” he said, ”and tonight three goals was enough for us because our defense did a great job of blocking shots, getting our sticks on the puck, and everyone was on the same page.”
An impressive aspect of the winning streak that continued Sunday night was the Avalanche again demonstrating their ability to win close one-goal games and for different skaters to play hero each night by providing clutch plays at crucial moments. One of Sunday night’s heroes was Galiardi, who tallied the game-winning goal in the second period on his first day back after missing over a month with a wrist injury.
“We have a different guy stepping up each night,” said Galiardi, “we have a lot of depth and the fact that we win the close ones is a good sign for our team.”
“It’s not one guy,” added Sacco, “it’s different guys every night…the bottom line is we’re winning hockey games, and we’re getting valuable contributions from a lot of different players.”
The Avs will go for seven in a row on Tuesday night when the L.A. Kings come to Denver.