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The pressure is starting to build as the regular season nears its end, and on Sunday night the Colorado Avalanche were able to deliver an important 2-0 win on the road against the Minnesota Wild. The Avalanche entered the day outside the Western Conference playoff picture but just three points out of seventh place, and four points ahead of Minnesota.
Related: Avalanche at Wild, Live Thread
Semyon Varlamov was solid in net for Colorado and stopped all 30 of Minnesota's shots on goal. Jamie McGinn took care of all the scoring for Colorado with two goals in the first period; the first came less than two minutes in, and he added the second at the 8:25-mark. McGinn now has 14 goals on the season.
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The Colorado Avalanche dominated the Anaheim Ducks 4-0 last Monday and appeared to be riding a wave of momentum towards a playoff berth. Instead, the Avalanche have appeared completely lost in their past two games and have been outscored 7-1 at home by Columbus and Pittsburgh.
Now, with a home-and-home series against the Minnesota Wild looming, Colorado needs to rediscover their footing and earn a much needed victory. But the degree of difficulty has been raised; not only are they facing a rested Minnesota team on the second night of a back-to-back after being physically manhandled by the Penguins, but they'll be playing this game without the services of forward Steve Downie.
The newly acquired forward suffered an upper body injury against the Penguins and did not travel with the team. There is no official word as to the severity of the injury. Forward Mike Connolly (one of the prospects acquired from San Jose in exchange for Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi at last week's trade deadline) has been recalled from AHL Lake Erie and may make his NHL debut.
Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net for Colorado.
Puck drops at 5:00 p.m. MDT
The Penguins got on the board quickly in the first period and put the Avs in an early 2-0 deficit. Colorado actually out-shot the Pittsburgh offense 14-8 in the first period, but the Penguins charged back in the second, blasting 12 shots to the Avs' 9 and scoring 2 goals in the process.
In the third and final period, the balance swung back to the Avalanche, who managed to once again out-shoot Pittsburgh. They were rewarded with a goal from D Matt Hunwick, but RW Arron Asham answered back with a goal of his own, putting the final score at 5-1. LW Steve Sullivan, RW Richard Park, D Deryk Engelland, C Malkin and RW Asham all scored for the Penguins Saturday night.
The Avalanche will be back in action Sunday night, traveling to play the Minnesota Wild at 5:00 p.m. MST.
The Penguins showed why they are one of the top scoring teams in the league early and quickly. Less than eight minutes into the period, RW Arron Asham fired a 34-foot slapshot past G Jean-Sebastien Giguere for a 1-0 lead. Within a minute and a half later, D Deryk Engelland deflected a shot from 17-feet and put the Penguins at a 2-0 disadvantage.
Meanwhile, Marc Fleury has proved unflappable at the net for the Penguins, holding off 14 shots on goal while the Penguins have responded with only 8 of their own. The Avs will be looking for a comeback in the second period against one of the league's hotter teams.
They cannot afford to repeat that mistake against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, who have won five of their last six games in dominating fashion. Led by the NHL's leading scorer Evgeni Malkin (8 G, 10 A in the past 10 games), the Penguins offense is firing on all cylinders and enjoying quality contributions throughout their roster. James Neal is having a career season with 30 goals in his first full season with Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately for the Penguins, they lost top defenseman Kris Letang indefinitely with a concussion. Letangsuffered the concussion in Wednesday's game against the Dallas Stars and joins captain Sidney Crosby on the injured reserve list.
For the Avalanche, they need to get better production from their top lines. Against Columbus, Ryan O'Reilly had one of his worst games of the season. Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny were also nearly invisible against the Blue Jackets. With a crucial back-to-back series looming against division rival Minnesota Wild, the Avalanche cannot afford to drop another home game.
Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. MDT
The Colorado Avalanche kept waiting for the puck to finally get into the back of the goal, but it never happened on Thursday night in a 2-0 defeat against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The loss ends a four-game winning streak for the Avalanche.
Columbus took the early lead in the first period with a goal from Nikita Nikitin and followed up with an insurance goal in the second period from Fedor Tyutin. From there, the Blue Jackets depended on defense to get a rare victory for the Western Conference's worst team.
Colorado managed to get 32 shots on goal during the game, but Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason saved them all. It's the first time that the team has been shut out since a 1-0 loss at home against the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 2. The Avalanche continue to be on the fringe of qualifying for the playoffs as the season nears its close.
Hoping to get back the lead in the second period, the Colorado Avalanche only allowed the Columbus Blue Jackets to extend their lead to 2-0 after two periods on Thursday night. Columbus took a 1-0 advantage midway through the first period and increased that lead in the second.
After getting their first goal with the man advantage, the Blue Jackets' Fedor Tyutin scored the team's second goal with both teams at full strength well into the second period. Both teams were able to attack the goal in the period, with each team getting 13 shots on goal apiece, but only Columbus managed to get the puck past the goalie.
Despite having 21 shots on goal thus far, the Avalanche are still scoreless against Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason. Colorado hasn't been shut out since losing 1-0 to the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 2.
Riding a winning streak, you wouldn't expect that the Colorado Avalanche would have that much difficult beating the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the NHL's weakest teams this season. And yet, Columbus leads 1-0 after the first period at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night.
If there is one thing that the Blue Jackets do somewhat well, it's score on the power play. So far this season, they're 18th in the NHL at converting in those situations. That's precisely what they did in the first period against Colorado, too, as Columbus' Nikita Nikitin scored his third goal of the season with the man advantage to give the Blue Jackets an early 1-0 advantage.
The Avalanche had eight shots in the period, but Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason stopped them all. In addition to the Blue Jackets' successful power play, each team also had one failed opportunity in the period, as well. Colorado has won four straight games since losing 5-1 to Winnipeg on Feb. 19.
By all accounts, the Colorado Avalanche had a great month of February. The team went 7-3-2 over that span, they welcomed back Peter Mueller and Matt Duchene back from injury, caught fire with the Steve Downie trade, and goalie Semyon Varlamov was incredibly good (.942 SV% over his last 7 games).
|St. Louis Blues||64||40-17-7||87|
|Detroit Red Wings||64||42-19-3||87|
|San Jose Sharks||62||33-22-7||73|
|Los Angeles Kings||64||29-23-12||70|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||63||18-38-7||43|
There the Avalanche sit, still stuck in 9th place despite their successful month.
Why? Here are the February records for some of their closest competition:
Colorado's current competition is gaining enough points in the standings to keep up with the playoff race. Aside from the red-hot Coyotes, the Avalanche have been outperforming the rest of their competition but with so many overtime games handing out an extra point, it's difficult to create any separation in the standings.
With Chicago scuffling, the last three playoff spots in the Western Conference are now up for grabs -- and there at least six teams with a good shot at one of those berths. Colorado needs to keep collecting wins to make that happen.
Enter the Columbus Blue Jackets. This franchise is redefining what "rock bottom" looks like in the NHL, and this game at the Pepsi Center is epitome of a trap game. Columbus has lost three in a row and are rocketing towards that first overall selection in the June draft. Colorado is the much better team and should win this game easily, but if Columbus catches them looking ahead to Pittsburgh this Saturday, the Avalanche can find themselves in trouble early.
Colorado has won both meetings between these two teams this season, and Gabriel Landeskog has scored a goal in both games. Newly acquired winger Jamie McGinn will make his debut in an Avalanche sweater.
Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. MDT
Make it four straight wins for the suddenly surging Colorado Avalanche, who defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Monday night at the Pepsi Center. The Avs and Ducks headed into the third period tied at 1-1 after Anaheim's Bobby Ryan knotted the score with a powerplay goal late in the second period, but Colorado's offense awoke in the third to secure the victory.
Ryan O'Reily would kick-start the scoring for Colorado in the third when he scored his 16th goal of the season just :37 seconds into the period. Teammates Gabriel Landeskog, Steve Downie were credited with the assists. Matt Duchene made it 3-1 Colorado just two minutes later when he beat Ducks goalie Jones Hiller for his 13th goal of the year off passes from Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk.
Jay McClement would add the final goal for Colorado, his ninth of the season, with five minutes remaining in the contest.
The win brings the Avalanche to 70 points at 33-27-4 overall, while the Ducks drop to 27-26-10.
Just as it seemed like the Colorado Avalanche would take a shutout and one goal lead into the third period in their Monday night matchup with the Anaheim Ducks, Bobby Ryan beat Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov for a power play score to tie the game at 1-1. Ryan's 23rd goal of the season came with under two minutes left in the period and off assists from Andrew Cogliano and Cam Fowler.
Ryan's goal came after Avs defenseman Erik Johnson was whistled for two minutes for interference on Cogliano. It is the Avalanche's only penalty of the game, so far.
Perhaps the Avs should feel fortunate to even be heading to the final period tied. Anaheim has out-shot Colorado 23-14 on the night, but Varlamov has been up to the challenge.
Colorado holds advantages in hits (12-9) and faceoff wins 21-16.
The Colorado Avalanche are looking to push their current winning streak to four games tonight at the Pepsi Center against the Anaheim Ducks, and through a period, Colorado has put itself in a good position to do just that. The Avalanche take a 1-0 lead into the second period on Monday.
Colorado's Cody McLeod got the scoring started when he beat Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller halfway through the period. McLeod's fourth goal of the season was set-up by teammates Steve Downie and Jan Hejda.
Much of the rest of the first period action was slow. Anaheim out-shot Colorado 7-6 in the period. The Ducks hold a 10-6 advantage in faceoffs, while Colorado has a 6-5 edge in hits.
There were no penalties in the opening frame.
The Colorado Avalanche have won three games in a row and look to continue the winning streak against the hottest team in the league, the Anaheim Ducks.