Two consecutive beatdowns, even at the hands of the Stanley Cup finalists from the previous season, can do a lot to a team who was just finding confidence in itself. For the Colorado Avalanche, it served as a wakeup call that the group of players they were running out every night could stand some upgrades. Insert youngsters Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov as reinforcements for a defense corps riddled with mediocre-at-best players and suddenly tonight's contest against the visiting New Jersey Devils was a whole lot bigger than it was a few days ago.
The shakeup worked early as the Avalanche would take just 51 seconds to take the 1-0 lead as Matt Duchene and Nick Holden executed a perfect 2-on-1 rush and beat Devils goaltender Cory Schneider. A penalty-riddled first period would see the Avalanche take that lead into the locker room as no power play time would result in scoring.
The second period was quite similar to the first in that the Avalanche would outplay the Devils overall. The only penalty of the period, a holding call against Holden, would result in Colorado extending their lead with a shorthanded goal by Tyson Barrie as he tapped the puck into an empty net off a rebound from a Nathan MacKinnon shot. The Avalanche would once again take a lead into the third period at home, a situation that has caused much anguish this season.
Your typical lackluster third period from a Devils team best described as "blah" reared its ugly head again as the Avalanche were content to nurse their two goal lead and watch the Devils humorously muster enough offense to come back. Because that doesn't normally happen, it was no surprise when the only scoring of the third period was a Carl Soderberg empty net goal with just 28 seconds to play.
To New Jersey's credit, at least Jack Adams candidate John Hynes pulled his goaltender before a minute left to play this time around and gave his team a chance to comeback. Unfortunately for them, Avalanche netminder Calvin Pickard refused to yield and recorded his first career shutout.
1. Calvin Pickard - 27 saves, shutout
2. Matt Duchene - 1 goal
3. Alex Tanguay - 1 assist
PLAY OF THE GAME
An incredible sequence of two-way play from players who are known for their offense, this Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie combination on the penalty kill of all things provided the insurance goal for the Avs that they ultimately would end up not needing.
51 seconds into the game and a breakaway goal? That's how you set a tone. Colorado would use the Duchene goal as a springboard for two and a half periods of dominance before turning to Pickard to seal the deal.
BY THE NUMBERS
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"Once I got a few shifts under my belt, I felt a lot more comfortable and continued that throughout the game." -Defenseman Chris Bigras on his NHL debut
Because both Nashville and Winnipeg are relatively incompetent lately, the Avalanche win tonight only got them one point in the standings on each team as the Jets and Predators somehow played their way from a clear-cut regulation result into an overtime meltdown. Central teams refuse to make it easy on themselves.
Colorado hits the road again as they head east to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, January 16. Puck drop is at 5:00PM MST.