With as many juicy storylines leading up to tonight's tilt between the Colorado Avalanche and visiting Buffalo Sabres, we all should have seen the sleepwalking effort from both teams for the first two periods coming from a mile away. Instead, we didn't and the fireworks expected when Jamie McGinn and Ryan O'Reilly returned to Colorado since their draft-day trade were nothing more than pop-its.
A scoreless first period was exactly as exciting as it sounds as neither team mustered any real offense and the shots on goal weren't much more than goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Robin Lehner saw in warmups.
The second period was more of the same until Sabres forward Evander Kane scored on the power play at 16:38, giving Buffalo a 1-0 lead. O'Reilly would get an assist on the Kane goal, drawing the ire of the hometown fans as they mildly booed the former Av when his assist was announced.
The third period, in typical Avalanche-at-home fashion, is where all the drama and excitement would exist. A four minute power play for the Avalanche yielded no goals but they seized all of the momentum, scoring moments later as Alex Tanguay finally took the lid off and slipped a puck behind a scrambling Lehner to tie the game 1-1.
Because the Avalanche hate sportswriters, they would wait until the final minute of the game to score the game-winning goal as Francois Beauchemin's shot from the point would deflect off a Sabres defender and past Lehner for the 2-1 lead and what would ultimately be the final score.
Game-winning goal in the final minute of the third period? Of course the play of the game is Beauchemin's winner! It was a nice bit of karmic retribution for the Avalanche, who lost to Columbus over the weekend in eerily similar fashion.
Tanguay's goal sparked the entire Avalanche team as their onslaught of the Sabres in the entire third period eventually resulted in lady luck showing up for Colorado.
BY THE NUMBERS
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"In the third we started to stretch them a bit and then open up the ice for us and start generating more. We had more chances because of it." - Head Coach Patrick Roy on his team's third period dominance
Colorado's victory and Minnesota's loss in Anaheim tonight means the Avalanche have pulled within just one point of the Wild for the first Wild Card playoff spot. The Avs also move two points ahead of Vancouver and three ahead of Nashville, the two teams closest to them in the race for the final playoff spot.
The Avalanche continue their short homestand as the St. Louis Blues come calling for the second time in two weeks on Friday, January 22. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00PM MST.