At this point in the season, calling every game for the Colorado Avalanche a must win game is cliche and tired but unfortunately true. Facing such a situation in the final game of their four game homestand, the Avs welcomed in one of the hottest teams in hockey in the Anaheim Ducks.
Colorado would strike first despite the Ducks putting on the lion's share of pressure in the first half of the opening frame as Nathan MacKinnon would score a classic MacKinnon goal in transition where his speed won out and put him in a position to beat Ducks goaltender John Gibson cleanly for the 1-0 lead. Despite a late Ducks power play, Colorado would take the one goal lead into the first intermission.
Anaheim would have a short power play extended when Erik Johnson was called for delay of game for flipping the puck out of play as Colorado was killing the carryover penalty from the first period. Despite spending the first two plus minutes of the period with the man-advantage, Anaheim would remain scoreless behind an aggressive penalty kill and the brilliance of Semyon Varlamov.
The Avalanche would finally see themselves back on even ice with the Ducks and found their footing as the period wore on. Recent healthy scratch Andreas Martinsen would win a puck battle along the boards and hit a streaking Matt Duchene with a pass before catching up and taking a return feed from Duchene, who had drawn the Ducks defense to him, and Martinsen would beat Gibson for the 2-0 Avalanche lead at 17:19 of the period.
Feeling the momentum of a spirited home crowd, the Avalanche would feed off the energy and continue playing blazing fast hockey and Shawn Matthias would put home a rebound in front to give the Avs a 3-0 lead going into the third period.
Not looking to repeat recent third period failures Matthias would score on a breakaway that was waved off because the linesman called the play offsides despite replays clearly showing it to be onside.
Despite a feisty third period from both sides, the score would remain unchanged and give Varlamov the well-earned shutout.
PLAY OF THE GAME/TURNING POINT
MacKinnon's goal opened the scoring and it ended up being the game-winner but everything about this play was hockey perfection from the Avalanche. Picture perfect pass and a great finish gets tonight's play of the game and turning point.
BY THE NUMBERS
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"I think it helped Varly to regroup. I think it helped Varly to work with Francois (Allaire) and really refocus on his game. Sometimes it's good to have a step back and he's been outstanding since" - Head Coach Patrick Roy on the play of his goaltender since being benched for one game last week
With the regulation win, the Avalanche move into sole possession of the final Wild Card playoff spot in the Western Conference, sitting two points ahead of the Minnesota Wild.. That hold is, of course, tenuous as they have played two more games than the Wild but now have a 32-30 lead in ROWs, the first tiebreaker at the end of the season should the teams finish tied in points.
The Avalanche take their act on the road as they head to Winnipeg on Saturday, March 12. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:00 pm MST.