The former stars are retired, the teams have been separated by realignment, and so, the fiery hate that fueled a decade long rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings has all but fizzled out. So with no vicious hits or line brawls on the docket, this game would instead serve as a preview for the Avalanche's first outdoor game two weeks from today.
Avalanche fans will undoubtably hope for a more entertaining offensive effort when the Avalanche next meet the Red Wings at Coors Field. The Avs were hemmed in their own zone for much of the opening frame and were outshot by a 13-4 margin but outstanding goaltending and an excellent play on the forecheck gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead heading into the second period. Matt Duchene put the Avalanche on the board halfway through the opening frame tapping in a beautiful feed from Mikhail Grigorenko who drew two Detroit defenders out of position before finding Duchene on the back door.
The Red Wings' onslaught of shots continued into the second period with Detroit attempting 22 shots on Semyon Varlamov. The Avs goaltender made a number of key saves on highlight reel opportunities from the likes of Darren Helm, Thomas Tatar, and Dylan Larkin, but it was a knuckle-puck from the point that would finally beat Varlamov and tie the game. 4:09 into the second period, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson scored his second goal of the night when his shot from the point ricocheted off the leg of Matt Duchene and through the legs of Varlamov.
The Avalanche finally found some relief early in the third period as Tyson Barrie drove the puck deep into Red Wings' territory. The puck slipped loose into the Red Wings' crease where an opportunistic Blake Comeau floated a shot in high past Petr Mrazek.
The Avalanche's lead wouldn't last long. The Red Wings went back on the attack and at the end of a particularly long shift in the Avs' zone Carl Soderberg was sent to the box for slashing. It took Detroit just 15 seconds to find the equalizer as Justin Abdelkader fed Pavel Datsyuk in front of the Avalanche net and the superstar center beat Varlamov with a highlight reel backhand.
Things looked bleak for the Avalanche as they took another penalty just seconds after the Datsyuk goal, but Varlamov and the Avs' penalty kill were able to hold the line. The Avalanche and Wings traded penalties late in the third period but neither team could capitalize on their power play. Just when both teams looked content to wait out the final minutes and play for the guaranteed overtime point, the Red Wings had one last late flurry of shots stopped by Varlamov.
The tired Avalanche squad struggled to counterattack the Red Wings in overtime, icing the puck multiple times early on, but a great individual effort from Matt Duchene put the Avalanche on the power play for the final 90 seconds of the overtime period and helped relieve the pressure on Semyon Varlamov. Jarome Iginla and Tyson Barrie both fired a number of rockets from the point but couldn't find the game winner late.
Matt Duchene got the Avalanche on the board in the first, but it's the deke and dish by Mikhail Grigorenko that earn play of the game honors tonight:
The Red Wings would go on to tie the game, Blake Comeau's 3rd period was critical for an Avalanche team searching for an offensive spark. Nathan MacKinnon's goal to continue the shootout gave Comeau the opportunity to win the game.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"MacK put his **** on the table and scored a big one to tie it. It's not easy going when you're the last guy in and you have to score to keep the shootout going" - Patrick Roy
BY THE NUMBERS
It wasn't pretty for the Avalanche tonight in the possession department:
The Avalanche held the top wildcard spot in the Western Conference. They sit 3 points ahead of the Nashville Predators and 6 points ahead of the Minnesota Wild. The Predators have 3 games in hand and the Wild have 4.
The Avalanche continue their road trip with a Valentines morning stop in Buffalo. The Avs take on the Sabres Sunday, February 14th at 10:30 AM MST.