Trying to stave off the excitement of the inevitable against a team that has historically dominated you was the tough task facing the Colorado Avalanche tonight as they entered Stadium Series week with the unenviable task of hosting the San Jose Sharks just before the fun really begins.
A sluggish start, long the norm for the Avs at home, would put the packed Pepsi Center center on edge early as a lazy defensive sequence led to an unassisted goal for newly-acquired Nick Spaling, who beat Avs netminder Calvin Pickard for the 1-0 just 2:10 into the game.
Not looking to be the only recently-traded Toronto Maple Leaf to make a mark in his first game with his new team, Shawn Matthias deposited a pass from Carl Soderberg past a scrambling Martin Jones in a chaotic sequence to tie the game 1-1 and give Colorado the lion's share of momentum.
That momentum would continue through the end of the first period and despite the score remaining tied, the Avalanche appeared to feel comfortable in the driver's seat of a game. The second period would be a continuation of the first as Colorado pressed the fast forward button and San Jose looked to Jones for the stop. Stop he did as Colorado racked up 14 shots on goal but none would beat Jones to see the two playoff contenders enter the third still tied one goal apiece.
The Sharks would come out in the third period and take the lead behind karma's cruelest of jokes as Brent Burns threw a puck in front of the Avs net and it happened to bounce of Erik Johnson's skate and into the net for the 2-1 lead. Not interested in the universe's shenanigans, the Avalanche would strike back minutes later as Jarome Iginla drew a penalty and subsequently scored the power play goal that would make it 2-2.
Seeking to capitalize on their night-long domination, the Avalanche would get an unlikely contribution as Andrew Bodnarchuk pinched into the offensive zone with the puck, passed to Gabriel Landeskog, and met his captain in the corner for a celebration after Landeskog slipped it past Jones to put Colorado ahead 3-2 in the final ten minutes of the game.
The Sharks would dominate the second half of the third period and it would pay off in the form of a game-tying goal by Joel Ward with 1:31 remaining in the game as noted Avs killer Joe Pavelski started the play the landed the puck behind Pickard.
Overtime would go scoreless but not for lack of effort as both teams had excellent scoring chances, especially the two clean breakaways the Sharks had, but both goaltenders would force the game into the much-maligned shootout. Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene would score for the Avalanche and Pickard would yield zero goals against and give the Avalanche the extra point they so badly need.
1. Gabriel Landeskog
2. Nathan MacKinnon
3. Joel Ward
PLAY OF THE GAME
Duchene's shootout winner would propel the Avalanche to victory and keep Colorado competitive in the race for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Ward's third period goal turned this from an Avalanche regulation win to the dreaded three point game. Pacific Division teams all over groan.
BY THE NUMBERS
And a fun fact for the night: With Tyson Barrie's assist tonight, the Avalanche move to 18-1 in their last 19 games in which Barrie has scored a point.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"First of all, I'm there to enjoy myself. That's the number one thing. I had my career. Yes, I love to compete but I'm not that crazy anymore. I love it, but at the same time I'm going to have fun" - Patrick Roy on the excitement turning towards the Alumni Game
The win keeps the Avalanche in the final playoff spot and four points ahead of the Minnesota Wild. The Wild have three games in hand on the Avalanche but play three games between now and next Monday compared to Colorado's one. Standings could look very different after the Stadium Series festivities this weekend.
Colorado also moves to within one of Nashville but the Predators also still have two games in hand there so the potential for that deficit to grow looms large.
The Avalanche have two days off for the second time this week as they rest up and prepare to host the Detroit Red Wings at Coors Field on Saturday, February 27 in the next Stadium Series installment. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 PM MST.