When the NHL schedule was released, it only seemed natural to pit the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings on a nationally televised game on a Wednesday night, which has been designated as the league's "Rivalry Night" the past several seasons. With the teams not playing a riveting outdoor game this year, it only made sense, given their blood-stained history.
Instead, the league flexed the game out of the national spotlight as both teams are set to miss the playoffs this season. The play early on was a reminder of why that will be as neither team's defense showed up. Colorado made the first big mistake and Andrea Athanasiou saw himself with a clean breakaway and he easily beat Calvin Pickard for the game's first goal at 5:09.
Colorado and Detroit traded chances throughout the rest of the first and headed into the second with a 1-0 Detroit lead. Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard made an incredible save on Mark Barberio early in the second that gave Detroit the momentum but the Avalanche held tough and Matt Duchene finally broke through his struggles and scored a gorgeous goal at 12:08 to tie the game.
Two bad teams playing in front of an angry crowd fueled by a rivalry long laying dormant set the stage for an intense third period. For once, Colorado was the team that came out swinging in a tie game. Just 3:49 into the period, J.T. Compher sniped one past Howard for his first career NHL goal, giving Colorado the 2-1 lead and injecting life into the Avs fans in attendance.
The one-goal lead didn't last long as Colorado's most frustrating trio made some magic happen as John Mitchell and Blake Comeau combined to find a wide open Carl Soderberg and the Swede made no mistake in making it 3-1 just 5:44 into the period.
Gabriel Landeskog had a penalty shot with eight minutes remaining to provide the proverbial dagger but Howard came up big once again. In the end, the Avalanche held onto their lead and a frenzied crowd chanted "Red Wings suck!" as the game wound to a close with Colorado prevailing, 3-1.
1. J.T. Compher
2. Matt Duchene
3. Calvin Pickard
PLAY OF THE GAME
There was some great offense played in this game but nothing beats the first tally of Compher's career.
The Soderberg goal put Colorado up by two early in the third and showed what a different team the Avalanche are when playing with some actual confidence.
BY THE NUMBERS
Colorado takes a few days off before heading to Detroit for the second half of a home-and-home against the Red Wings and for their final visit to Joe Louis Arena.