The Colorado Avalanche came into tonight's game against the visiting Florida Panthers with one simple goal: figure it out and win the damn game. Frustrated by a string of losses in recent games despite playing quality hockey, the Avalanche needed to see results begin to match the improved process before time ran out on their playoff hopes.
Early on, that's exactly what happened as the Avalanche jumped all over the Panthers with an onslaught of shots on goal and non-stop pressure from a relentless forecheck. Shortly after drawing a penalty, the Avalanche would see their Captain lead the way as Gabriel Landeskog put on a 150 foot one-man show as he weaved his way through the helpless Panthers defense before beating a slow-to-react Roberto Luongo for the 1-0 load.
Florida would respond just four minutes later as a power play of their own expired and a bad turnover by the Colorado defense gave the Panthers offense new life and led to Erik Gudbranson scoring into a mostly empty net as Calvin Pickard was still sliding left-to-right as Aleksander Barkov's pass caught him moving.
Colorado would continue taking it to the Panthers and a botched odd-man rush turned into a miniature 2-on-1 between Tyson Barrie and Mikkel Boedker and Boedker handled Barrie's pass into skates perfectly as he transitioned the puck to his stick in time to beat a flailing Luongo to put Colorado back on top, 2-1.
Colorado would miss a golden opportunity to make it 3-1 just seconds later as Matt Duchene made a perfect pass to an open Jarome Iginla who only had to tap the puck into the net but he caught the puck on an angle and sent it over the net instead. The period would come to a close a short time later with Colorado maintaining it's one goal advantage.
The Duchene-Iginla combination would redeem themselves early in the period as Iginla found Duchene in the corner and Duchene did the rest, spinning past a player and fighting through multiple stick checks before beating Luongo for the 3-1 Avalanche lead.
A weak defensive play by Nathan MacKinnon would leave Brian Campbell wide open in the slot and the veteran defenseman would beat Pickard with ease to bring it back to 3-2 as the period wound down near a close.
A dominant third period by Florida would see them put up a ridiculous 24 shots on goal...and exactly zero would get past Pickard. The Avs would walk out with a 3-2 win.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Duchene goal was not only a magnificent individual effort but ended up being the game-winning goal for the Avalanche.
Luongo's save on MacKinnon's penalty shot kept the Panthers in it and pressing. This save was just one of several brilliant stops to keep Florida within one as they desperately tried to tie it in the end.
BY THE NUMBERS
Certainly of note is that Jagr's assist tonight tied him for Gordie Howe for 3rd all-time in points in NHL history.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"The thing that I like about him is the swagger. He seems very confident right now in front of the net. He looks big and he's moving well and I love that intensity he's bringing." Patrick Roy on Calvin Pickard
The Avs win allows them to keep pace with the Minnesota Wild, who also won tonight, and the Nashville overtime loss against New Jersey means both teams picked up one point on the Preds and are six points back.
The Avalanche have the all-important four point game this Saturday as their next matchup sees them welcome in fellow playoff contender Nashville for the rare afternoon tilt. Puck drop is scheduled for 1:oo PM MST.