In the thick of a playoff race the Colorado Avalanche opened up a back-to-back road trip against the Western Conference's annual doormat: the Edmonton Oilers. The Avalanche came out hot against the Oilers, dominating the puck possession game early and testing goaltender Cam Talbot early. Cody McLeod squared off with the Oiler's newest addition, Zack Kassian and while he won the fight he went to the box with a bloodied hand. McLeod would take limited shifts throughout the rest of the game.
Despite the Avs' strong start the Oilers would strike first. Seven minutes into the first period the Avalanche's top pairing of Erik Johnson and Francois Beauchemin got turned around and frozen in the slot while the Oilers peppered Calvin Pickard with shots. Taylor Hall snagged a big rebound off of Pickard's pad and buried the puck to give the Oilers an early lead.
It took just four minutes for the Avalanche to respond and find their equalizer. During a strong offensive cycle in the Edmonton zone the puck squeaked out the high slot for Tyson Barrie. Barrie ripped a hard shot wide of the net where Blake Comeau picked up the loose puck, spun and fed John Mitchell on the backdoor. Mitchell easily slid the puck into the empty net for his first goal in 25 games.
The Avalanche jumped all over the Oilers again at the beginning of the second period and waited just 90 seconds before taking their first lead of the night. Mikhail Grigorenko sprung his linemates for a quick rush through the neutral zone and backed the Oilers up close to their net. With space up high Jarome Iginla dished a picture perfect saucer pass diagonal to Tyson Barrie who put the Avalanche up 2-1.
After killing off a pair of penalties the Avalanche earned an extended 1:20 5-on-3 opportunity late in the second period. Despite a shot of the crossbar, a pair of backdoor opportunities, and a chance for Jarome Iginla all alone in the slot, the Avalanche were unable to score on the two-man advantage. Despite a strong power play record overall, the Avalanche are an abysmal 0-for-12 opportunities with the two-man advantage this season.
The Avalanche's top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Alex Tanguay was dominant all night, but their best shift came early in the third period when they pinned the Oilers in their own zone for over a minute. After a number of opportunities Tyson Barrie collected the puck on the point, deked past the defense, double faked and fired a wrist shot through traffic to put the Avalanche up 3-1.
With a two-goal lead in the third period the Avalanche took their foot off the gas and allowed a considerable offensive push by the Oilers over the last several minutes of the game. The Oilers best opportunity came late in the third period when Taylor Hall collided with Calvin Pickard and an Oilers player tucked a loose puck into the empty net. Despite an Oilers' coaching challenge the goal was waived off for goalie interference and Hall was assessed a penalty.
The Oilers took a page out of Avalanche coach Patrick Roy's playbook and pulled their goalie with over 4:00 left in the third period. The Avalanche struggled to clear the puck out of the zone and missed the Oilers net with a number of long shots before the Oilers eventually scored with 1:30 seconds left on the clock. A long shift in the Avalanche zone ended with a great pass from Conner McDavid and a great finish by Benoit Pouliot.
The final minute was filled with nervous moments for the Avalanche as the Oilers peppered Calvin Pickard with shots. The Avalanche took home the victory, but in the final 30 seconds Nathan MacKinnon blocked a hard shot with his knee and struggled to get to his feet. No word yet on his injury status but with a quick turnaround in Vancouver tomorrow the Avalanche will know more soon.
Tyson Barrie - 2 goals, 1 assist, 7 SOG, part of all 3 goals
Gabriel Landeskog - 1 assist, impressive two way game, 20:05 TOI
Calvin Pickard - 25 Saves, .926 SV%
PLAY OF THE GAME
This tic-tac-toe play by Grigorenko, Duchene, Iginla, and Barrie was an easy pick for play of the game.
John Mitchell's goal helped get the Avalanche back on track after Taylor Hall's opening goal derailed their strong start.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"I thought we dominated that game." Patrick Roy.
BY THE NUMBERS
A good game by the Avalanche but a weak finish with the lead.
The Avalanche move back into the top wildcard spot in the Western Conference. They sit 1 point ahead of the Nashville Predators and 4 points ahead of the Minnesota Wild. The Predators have 2 games in hand and the Wild have 3.
Colorado heads west to finish their Canadian back-to-back in a Sunday night matchup in Vancouver. The Avs take on the Canucks Sunday, February 21st at 8:00 PM MST.