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Piste Off: Avalanche Tie Late, Beat Red Wings 4-3 in OT

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NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings welcomed an old foe into their new building, down a significant piece in their forward corps. Let’s show them they’re no more welcome at LCA than they were at the Joe.

First Period:

The Avalanche played last night in Nashville, and at first started out with that typical jump a tired team has. The first minutes seemed to go by quickly, though the only chances Colorado got were a few far-out shots that Jimmy Howard saw all the way in.

Henrik Zetterberg got a puck up to Anthony Mantha near center to send the Wings in 3-on-2 with Mike Green coming up on the right wing as the third man. Green ended up getting the pass from Mantha for a good chance, but Jonathan Bernier turned it away and out of play. I will admit that was the first moment I realized that Bernier was now playing for the Avs.

FSD brought up the fact that Colorado may have had far-and-away the worst record in the league last season, but they still ended up getting knocked out of the top three draft slots. Let’s all take a moment and laugh at that again!

Scott Wilson nearly got his first goal of the season as a Gustav Nyquist shot from a sharp angle rebounded right out to him and... bounced over the blade of his stick. Phbbtbt.

A bit of an odd icing call saw Dominic Toninato go crashing into Howard’s net after he caught a rut right in front of the goal. Fortunately Jimmy was pulled to the other side of his crease following the puck or one of two things could have happened: 1) Jimmy Howard gets his inevitable injury after starting the season playing well, or 2) he gets pissed about being run into again and gives Toninato a facewash with his smelly glove.

Dylan Larkin came streaking up the right wing boards and sent the puck in towards the slot. He followed it through center, got it back from Xavier Ouellet along the left side of the ice and sent in a wrister on Bernier that slipped past him far side and in for the 1-0 goal! A closer look seemed to show that Justin Abdelkader tipped it on the way to the net, so he’ll get credit, but Larkin definitely gets brownie points for making the whole play happen.

Frans Nielsen flipped a long pass straight up to Darren Helm at the Colorado blue line that would have given him a breakaway if it weren’t barely offsides. Knowing Helmer’s hands though, we’d be most likely eating ham for Thanksgiving this Thursday instead of turkey.

After Danny DeKeyser made his return to the team and the scoresheet by taking a hooking penalty, Helm nearly got a shorthanded chance on a two-on-one with with Nielsen.

Howard made a key save on the penalty kill that gave his team a chance to clear and reset, and aggressive work by Abdelkader and Andreas Athanasiou took care of the last twenty seconds of the Avs’ man advantage.

Unfortunately, the Wings couldn’t quite get out of the period with a lead, because with 15.1 seconds remaining as Erik Johnson fired a slapshot in from the blue line that somehow made it through traffic and Howard’s five-hole. Tough goal to give up, especially in that important last minute to a tired team.

Shots: 12-7 Avalanche
Score: 1-1 tie

Second Period:

The Wings and Avs traded chunks of zone pressure in the opening minutes of the middle frame. Mantha had a chance in behind the Colorado defense where I think he could have waited just a little bit longer before taking a shot. Then the Avalanche got the Red Wings hemmed in their own zone for a time where they had Howard moving in his crease but couldn’t get anything in.

Zetterberg passed to an approaching Abdelkader in the slot, who had a grade-A scoring chance himself but chose to pass to Nyquist at the side of the net. Goose was primed for a quick one-timer, but the play was broken up by a Colorado stick.

Avs to the power play again as Mantha was called for holding. It was really more of a hook, but you definitely can’t claim innocence when you’ve hooked so well your stick gets pulled out of your hands!

The Wings seemed to be doing well disrupting passes and blocking attempts, until they ended up on a 5-on-3 for 48 seconds. Nielsen got called for tripping after he lost his own edge and took out the feet of Mikko Rantanen on his way down. I mean, it’s not like he was trying to slide-tackle him but okay.

Detroit managed to kill off both penalties, and had but a minute or so of relief before they were back on the disadvantage with Green in the box for roughing. Blake Comeau was the object of his retaliation as Comeau nearly sent Green head-first into the boards immediately before. This certainly isn’t the first time Comeau has gone after a Red Wings player, so forgive me if I’m not overly upset at this development.

Nielsen and Helm again had a two-on-one short-handed, this time with Nielsen taking the shot instead of passing over to Helm, but couldn’t get it past Bernier.

The Red Wings finally got their chance on the power play as Rantanen was called for hooking. For as bad as the Avalanche’s penalty kill is on the road this season (dead last), Detroit wasn’t able to take full advantage.

It looked like Rantanen should have been called for another penalty as he cross-checked Larkin from behind. FSD said it was the “lower back,” but it looked more like a butt check to me. Which, no one touches Larkin’s booty, okay? No one.

As close as the Wings were to a first-intermission lead, the Avalanche were just as close to heading into the third period with a tie. But the boys in red had better ideas, and got themselves a Budd Lynch goal of their own! Athanasiou got one of his classic breakaways on a pass from Tomas Tatar, streaking into the Avs zone and leaving Johnson in his dust. A quick deke to his backhand pulled Bernier to one side, leaving space for Double-A to slide it behind his right pad.

Two things after that goal: Athanasiou jumped about halfway up the glass after he scored, and Erich Freiny played “Greased Lightnin’” as his goal song, which is perfect and amazing and should happen every game (hint hint).

Green gets tripped by Rantanen with less than half a minute to go. Wings will have a carryover power play on fresh ice with a one-goal lead.

Shots: 24-14 Avalanche
Score: 2-1 Detroit

Third Period:

The Kid Line saw time on the power play together, which might be the only possible better thing than them on the ice together normally.

Zetterberg won a faceoff back to Green on the blue line, whose shot attempt hit an Av and got to Tatar, where a centering pass could have ricocheted on off the traffic in front. Instead, Tatar went behind the net to pass to Zetterberg, who took a shot that was for sure going in if Bernier didn’t somehow magic it into hitting him instead.

In all that pressure, Nyquist got called for a high-stick on a follow-through. No amount of explaining the obvious distinction would do any good, though, and Goose’s reputation as a high-sticking menace grows. Fortunately for him, his teammates were able to kill off the penalty and Howard was able to stop the Avs when they crashed the net as it expired.

DeKeyser got a pass to an open Tatar in the middle of the Avs zone, but he couldn’t find the back of the net.

Wings back to the man advantage as Rantanen took a third penalty on the night, this time for interference as he knocked down Trevor Daley. What kind of hat trick is that?

The first forty seconds of the power play were pretty power-less, and even when Larkin got a chance at a slapshot, his stick broke on him. Then the Wings had a bad line change that turned into a two-on-one broken up by the referees because the Avs were comically off-sides, as the Colorado player on the bench side did the splits over the blue line and then fell flat on his face.

Zetterberg fired a shot in from the point that bounced around in front of the net before coming back out to Niklas Kronwall, who... actually... scored??

Yes, you’re reading that right! After Gordie knows how many failed keep-ins and much wailing and rending of jerseys, Kronwall finally got a goal on the power play. And an old-fashioned slapshot, at that! That’s his first goal since April of last season, which isn’t nearly as long ago as I thought it would be. But hey, at least he didn’t take until second week of March to score his first this year!

Rantanen drew a second penalty on the night, with Ericsson going off for high-sticking. It was a short power play for the Avs, with Nail Yakupov scoring just 14 seconds in on a slapshot of his own.

The Wings very nearly gave up the lead immediately after that with Howard behind his net, where the puck bounced off his stick to a Colorado player who I think must have been a lot closer than he expected. An awkward stop had him sliding out of his crease enough for Green and Kronwall to pretend they had the skills and padding to be goalies at the same time. Carl Soderberg had the puck on his stick as Green went down to his knees, but Nyquist just pulled Soderberg’s blade away enough to prevent him from taking a shot, and Green slid his stick flat along the ice to sweep the puck behind the net.

The Avalanche started pouring on the pressure in the last two minutes before even pulling Bernier, and the Wings were hemmed in their own zone for well over a minute.

As close as the Wings were to a first-intermission lead, and as the Avalanche were to heading into the third period with a tie, the Wings were just as close to winning the game 3-2. Alas, this became the game of last-minute goals, as Soderberg tied the game with 45.2 seconds to go.

Hooray, free hockey!

Overtime

Overtime! More like NOvertime, if you ask me. I had a deep sense of unease this whole game that I couldn’t pinpoint, and I guess this is why. Time for the stupid-fun of 3-on-3 hockey.

Glendening, Helm, and Daley to start OT because of reasons. Actually I guess Luke was just out there to take the faceoff, because Nielsen replaced him right after he won it, but there aren’t better centers to start OT with? Come on.

Green got the first good chance of the extra time with Helm at the front of the net, but Rantanen took away his shooting lane and Green ran right into Helm instead.

Comeau (ew) took a shot and Howard left a decent rebound out there, but fortunately it was a Red Wing coming in to take it instead. Larkin and Tatar had an opportunity for a two-on-one, but Larkin chose not to pass over to Tatar, who was just going past the blueline and offsides.

Helm couldn’t get a good shot off, Daley couldn’t convert, and the Avs get a rush the other way in a two-on-one with MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, and MacKinnon fired a wrister just between Howard’s pad and blocker. Game over.

Shots: 37-24 Avalanche
Score: 4-3 Colorado

Final Thoughts:

  • The Avalanche are still dumb and the Red Wings are still awesome, no matter what the score says.
  • Blowing two-goal leads is still dumb.
  • 3-on-3 overtime is still terrifyingly exciting.
  • Loser points are still points.

Let’s Go Red Wings!!