The Colorado Avalanche returned home after a disappointing five-game road trip in Canada where the team only earned two points from a possible 10. However, with a three-game home stand prior to the All-Star Game and another two at home after the break, the Avalanche look for redemption in front of the fans at Pepsi Center.
Playing against a Los Angeles Kings team that has struggled this season with a mere 42 points from 48 games, the Avalanche were in a strong position to get the home-ice victory. Moreover, this Avalanche team seems to love playing these early afternoon games as they carried a record of 5-1-1 last season in matinee contests.
The Avalanche looked like an entirely different team today compared to the previous five contests. Everything went right for the Avalanche today and it was delightful to watch.
For one thing, the Avalanche started took the lead halfway through the first period. The game broke wide open in the second, with the Avalanche offense finding the net six times using every trick in the book; powerplay, full strength, and short-handed. With the victory assured, the third period became scrappy. The Kings’ frustration boiled over into physicality and penalties.
Hopefully, the Avalanche carry over this dominant play and confidence into their two division match-ups against the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild on Monday and Wednesday to put some distance between them and their rivals in the tight Central Division.
The Avalanche started off slow in the early portion of the first period after the long trip away from home. However, the team picked up speed and pressured Jonathan Quick in the LA net with lots of scoring opportunities, out-shooting the Kings 16-5 in the first period. Big Old Carl Soderberg continued his excellent play with a five-hole goal halfway through the first period for an Avalanche lead. He now has matched his career high in goals in a season! That’s right, the Avalanche scored first and led a game in the first period!
Fortunately, Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov wasn’t presented with any significant challenges in net from the Kings after struggling in his five starts away from home. The only negative aspect of this period was Erik Johnson’s injury. He was forced to leave the game and did not return. According to coach Jared Bednar after the game, he has yet to talk to the training staff regarding his condition.
The Avalanche put on a show during the second period as the entire team was involved in the offensive play. The captain, Gabriel Landeskog took advantage of the powerplay opportunity to begin the second period with a wrist shot goal a mere 32 seconds into the period for his 29th via tick-tack-toe passes from Nathan MacKinnon (42nd of the season) and Tyson Barrie (31).
Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar drew a penalty and the Avalanche powerplay converted its second goal of the game complements of a patient Mikko Rantanen wrister with fellow All-Stars MacKinnon and Landeskog providing the assists.
Tables were turned soon after as Ian Cole brought down Ilya Kovalchuk for his second minor penalty of the game. However, this didn’t deter the Avalanche, who continued to put pressure on the Kings. A hardworking forecheck from Matt Calvert resulted in a breakaway and Sheldon Dries converted the rebound with a swat in mid-air for the rookie’s short-handed goal.
The Avalanche’s continued hard work turned into more goals as Mikko Rantanen stole the puck and outpaced his opponents to put it past Los Angeles’ replacement netminder John Campbell to increase the lead to 6-0 for the good guys for the Avs’ second powerplay goal.
Other members of the Avalanche wanted to get involved on the scoreboard as Colin Wilson squeaked one by Campbell on the breakaway chance created by a precise pass from his line-mate Carl Soderberg. At this point, the Avalanche were beating the Kings by seven goals! In other words, Colorado earned a touchdown and an extra point if you use another sport’s scoring system.
Unfortunately, Mikko Rantanen also left the game early with what appears to be a knee injury. The good news is that he was taken out as a precautionary measure and will start against Nashville on Monday. The Avalanche took advantage of every scoring opportunity, with six goals in a period from a modest 10 shots on net.
With a commanding seven goal lead, the Avalanche went into the third period full of confidence. The Avs continued to lead offensively, out-shooting the Kings 14-8 for a total of 40 shots on goal compared to only 31 total shots from the Kings. With the game already lost, the Kings’ players took out their frustrations with physical play and penalties. This physicality culminated in two 10-minute game misconducts for Dries and Kings defenseman Derek Forbort in the dying minutes of the game. The visitors from California did get a consolation goal on a five-on-three powerplay through a Kovalchuk slapshot.
This game was exactly what the Avalanche needed after the dismal road trip. With ten players involved in the seven goals, the team didn’t have to rely on the top line this afternoon, as Carl Soderberg and others continue to have an impact offensively. Semyon Varlamov’s solid performance in net, stopping 30 of 31 shots, was overlooked because of the score.
Looking ahead, the Avalanche need to follow up this performance with more of the same against their division rival Nashville Predators on Monday. Another matinee game bodes well for Colorado, as puck drop is at 1:00 PM Mountain Time.