Game 61. Avs-Kings. Varlamov Leads Avs to 2 Big Points

Posted: February 22, 2012 in Avs vs. Los Angeles Kings, Game Thoughts

The Avs came out tonight, and had what was probably the best first period of the season. It was probably a combination of the Kings playing in Phoenix the night before, and the Avs getting blown out in Winnipeg, but the Avs looked great in the first.

I knew it was going to be a good game for the Avs when they came out and actually started decent. It was not the normal slow, uninterested start, and scoring early is very important when the other team has played the night before, and that’s exactly what the Avs did.

Seven minutes into the game, Mark Olver beat Jonathan Quick on a one timer over the blocker from the near side circle. It was a great shot but the credit goes to the Avs working hard in the corner to get the puck to Olver. That was David Jones and Daniel Winnik. The hard work lead to Jones getting the puck who delivered it to Olver for the goal. Quick looked surprised after the goal, I don’t think he was expecting a shot. But even if he was, he was not going to stop that shot.

It was almost as if the Kings wanted to go down six minutes later, when Kyle Clifford blindly slid a pass behind the goal straight to Paul Stastny who quickly wrapped the puck around for the goal. Just a terrible play by the Kings, but sometimes when a team gets down by one early after playing the night before they let down and lose focus a little, and I think that is what happened.

2-0 Avalanche leads are rare, but 3-0 Avalanche leads are practically myths. I can see the conversations tomorrow, “Hey did you see the Avs score 3 goals in the first period last night, and held that lead into the intermission?”

“Man, if you want to make a joke at least make at sound reasonable. Why can’t you just say you found Bigfoot in your house eating cereal, or you saw Elvis working at a shoe store?”

But I am here to tell you it actually happened. On the rush along the boards, Ryan O’Reilly threw a centering pass toward Jay McClement who perfectly tipped it off the far post and in. You could not have placed it any better. It is always nice to see McClement get an offensive reward for all of the great defense he plays.

Expecting a second period let-down, I was pleasantly surprised with their play. Even though Jonathan Quick didn’t make it past the first period, the Kings didn’t give up. In fact, this is where Varlamov won the game for the Avs.

At the 5 minute mark, there was a scramble in front of the net looking for the loose puck, which suddenly found it’s way to Dwight King who had an empty net to shoot at. Somehow, SOMEHOW, Varlamov stretched across in time to rob King of a sure goal to maintain the 3 goal lead. It was truly an amazing save.

At the 10 minute mark, the Avs were on the powerplay when Anze Kopitar intercepted a pass and skated in on a breakaway- he tried to make a move to his backhand, but Varlamov was there and kept the lead at three, once more. But what is amazing is that was not even close to his best save of the game!

Less than three minutes later, the Avs scored again to put the game out of reach. This time Landeskog drove hard to the net, where Bernier made the initial save, but Paul Stastny swiped in the rebound just before he was taken to the ice by Jack Johnson. It was a great play by Landeskog to somehow beat his man and get to the front of the net, but I’m still not even sure how Stastny got his stick on the puck because it looked like Johnson had him all tied up.

The Kings came out in the third, and finally solved Varlamov when Drew Doughty fired a slapper from the point that found its way through a ton of traffic and rang off the crossbar and into the net. The goal came less than five minutes into the period, which gave the Kings a little hope, but Varlamov stood tall.

With just over 10 minutes left in the game, a centering pass from behind Varlamov’s net bounced off his stick, across the crease, right to Dustin Brown who made a perfect shot right up against the lower post. However Varlamov once more stretched out and just beat the puck to the post to keep the lead at 3, and effectively end the Kings hope of a win. Varlamov was the difference tonight. His stops on Kopitar, King, and Brown were the difference between 4-1, and 4-4. All three were saves I don’t think Giguere makes.

The Avs climb back within 2 points of a playoff spot, and kept the Kings from gaining any points. It was a huge win, but with 5 other teams fighting for that last spot, you can expect the Avs will be further back come their next game. Things could play out tomorrow, where every other team in the fight loses. The game to watch is between the Coyotes and the Flames. If the Coyotes win, it would put them securely in the playoffs and keep the Flames from potentially jumping into that 8th spot, so all Avs fans should be Coyote fans tomorrow.

The Avs next game is Friday against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. The game starts at 5 p.m. Mountain time.

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