The Colorado Avalanche have played bad hockey at best over the last several weeks as their playoff hopes have stayed alive largely due to the futility of the teams around them. Tonight's visitor, the Montreal Canadiens, are a team that certainly understands the concept of being a sinking ship as they've been on a steady decline since star goaltender Carey Price got hurt again and looks primed to miss the rest of the season.
Two desperate teams clinging to playoff life would theoretically produce a pretty entertaining hockey game but the Avalanche were determined early on to make sure it was one-sided as their porous defense and terrible decision-making led to multiple odd-man rushes for the Canadiens in the early going before Andrei Markov would finally make the Avalanche pay for the incompetence as he beat Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov for the 1-0 lead at 7:40 of the first.
The Avalanche would shore up defensively and after the teams traded scoreless power play opportunities, the game would head into first intermission still in favor of the Canadiens but with the Avalanche maybe feeling a little bit better about themselves.
That late-period life would carry over into the second as the Avalanche would tie the game on a short-handed goal by Erik Johnson that started down low with great play from Johnson and Francois Beauchemin as they broke up a Montreal scoring chance and moved the puck to Gabriel Landeskog, who started the rush.
The 1-1 tie would not last long, however, as Lars Eller would score into a mostly empty net as a complete failure by all six Avs players on the play led to an easy tap-in by Eller to push Montreal back in front, 2-1.
The game would find controversy not much longer after that when Jarome Iginla scored what appeared to be the game-tying goal but not only was the call waived off, Iginla was assessed a minor penalty for goaltender interference. Replays would show Iginla made very slight contact with Scrivens, who blatantly flopped on the play to draw the call. Montreal would not score on the ensuing power play.
"Puck don't lie", as they say, as Iginla would score on an Avalanche power play as the second period wound down to make it 2-2 and pump serious life into what was an otherwise angry Pepsi Center crowd.
A competitive third period eventually saw the score give when Mikhail Grigorenko stripped P.K. Subban of the puck and started the break the other way as he left it for Matt Duchene, who cut to the middle to buy time and found Grigorenko for a touch pass to Iginla standing alone in front, who tapped the puck into the net behind a flailing Scrivens for the game-winning goal.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Begins and really ends with Grigorenko. His beautiful defensive play gave way to Duchene making a great play to get Grigorenko the puck who made a touch pass to Iginla, who had the easy part in tapping the puck in. Plays like this are why Grigorenko is quickly becoming a fan favorite.
The Iginla power play goal got the Avs the goal taken away from them by an interference call back and tied the game going into the third period.
BY THE NUMBERS
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"I'm not here for me. I'm here for the players, the team, the organization, the logo. I'm here to see us winning and I want to see us making the playoffs" -Patrick Roy on his focus moving forward
The win pushes the Avalanche back to six points ahead of their closest non-playoff chasing team, the Minnesota Wild, but that gap could be down to four as the Wild are currently in action. With three additional games in hand on the Avs, those points are obviously enormous.
After having two days off and playing tonight, the Avalanche take two more days off to let the rest of the league catch up in games played before heading back to the road for a Western Canada back-to-back as their first stop is Edmonton on Saturday, February 20. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 PM MST.