Avs & Kings, Part Deux

Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center the Colorado Avalanche looked to redeem themselves after losing in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings back at Staples Center. 3-3 was more than the score at the end of regulation on both Monday and Wednesday for the Avs and Kings when 60 minutes wouldn’t settle it. 3-3 was the number of points both would walk away with after playing each other on Monday and then again on Wednesday night. In Los Angeles the Kings came away victorious, scoring a goal per period and then defeating the Avalanche in OT. Denver the story played out quite differently, the Kings were plagued with taking unnecessary penalities and Colorado took advantage, making it 3-1 in the first period. Squandering a two goal lead the Kings forced it to OT.

Just like Monday night, both teams came to play. This game had it all, defelected shots, beautiful goals, impeccable saves, overtime, and a shoot-out. The first period was action packed, Matt Hendricks put the Avalanche on the boards first (7:38) by reversing around the Kings’ net and throwing the puck to the net. Ryan O’Reilly was crashing the crease and the puck went in off of Kings’ defenseman Jack Johnson. The Kings answered when Anze Kopitar had the prettiest goal of the game (10:00). While there’s no extra point for how visually stimulating a goal is, this definitely made you stop and stare. Taking a pretty pass from teammate Wayne Simmonds, Kopitar worked hard and did a no-look spin before sending the puck over Craig Anderson‘s right leg with a nifty back-hand. Then the Kings took five, count ’em FIVE, consecutive penalties. The Avalanche took advantage twice, first with Milan Hejduk squeezing one short-side by Jonathan Quick at 13:21 on the power play from the left circle. Then it was Paul Stastny at 18:08 taking a pass from teammate Matt Duchene from behind the red line he banked it in off of Drew Doughty. Quick was replaced with Erik Ersberg following this goal. After an intense first period, the second period was somewhat anti-climatic. No goals, just tough plays and lots of hustling.

The third period was a different pace for the Kings. The Avs weren’t playing their game, they were sitting on their skates and allowing the Kings to take shot, after shot and get power play after power play. The Kings were on a power play when Doughty had the puck, seeing two of his teammates screening Anderson he just threw the puck to the net. It went in at 00:40. The Avs’ penalty killing special teams has been struggling lately, their sticks were inactive and more often than not you’d see two men covering one guy, even though they were short-handed. It came as no surprise then, that the Kings would get another power play goal on the struggling penalty killing Avalanche. Alexander Frolov sent the game into OT when the Kings pulled their goalie with 1:21 left in regulation. The Kings were already on the PP, so they increased their attacking advantage to six on four with Frolov’s goal at 18:39 in the third. Unlike Monday night, this game couldn’t be finished in overtime and was sent into a shoot-out.

Coach Joe Sacco chose to go first, putting the pressure on Anderson to make the saves; those who have watched this goalie knows that’s where he likes to be. Hejduk faced off against Ersberg first, going left and getting stopped by the right pad of Ersberg. Kopitar was met with Anderson’s butterfly and the save came from his left pad. 0-0. Then came Peter Mueller, Mueller was recently acquired from Phoenix after being asked to transfer. Whatever wasn’t working well for him there has changed completely in Denver. In the past 11 games with the Avalanche, he’s had five goals and 11 assists. In his 54 games with the Coyotes this year he’s had four goals and 13 assists, the difference is staggering. Mueller came through, going five hole on Ersberg, and showed Avs fans why they shouldn’t cry over losing Wojtek Wolski. Jack Johnson said not so fast and quickly slide a puck on Anderson’s right side, between his skate and the post. Make that 1-1.  Chris Stewart was the last to go for the Avs, the pressure was on him to take the pressure off of Anderson. Stewart saw Mueller go five hole, so he tried the same, it worked. Then it was former Avalanche player Ryan Smyth, Smyth had played for the Avs for two seasons before getting traded last July for Kyle Quincey, Tom Preissing and some draft picks. Smyth waived his no-trade clause and packed up to add some veteran experience to the young Kings team. And now, his young team was counting on him to force another round, get another two points in this already tight race in the Western Conference. Smyth beat Anderson, but the puck missed the back of the net and instead hit the bar and bounced out. These two teams face one last time in April in Denver, the last game of the season for each team, and more likely than not, a much needed two points.

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