Without even looking at the boxscore, it was clear that Matt Duchene was the best player on the ice on Friday night.
While Duchene did have a four-point game – for the second time in his career – it was his speed and agility that gave the Chicago Blackhawks defense fits throughout the night and was a big reason for the Avalanche’s 6-2 victory.
He also did the little things that usually go unnoticed from the scoresheet – like racing after a puck to avoid an icing call – but this time his efforts were rewarded with a big assist.
Despite Colorado having a comfortable 4-1 lead with nearly six minutes left in the second period, the Avalanche wasn’t playing like it – with Duchene leading the charge.
After a long pass by PA Parenteau just missed Duchene’s stick at center ice, the puck sailed towards the Chicago zone in what looked to be a sure icing call. But Duchene hustled down the ice, beat the Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith to the puck at the end-wall, fought the defenseman off, and flipped it to the slot where Jamie McGinn was all alone and scored.
Duchene had scored his own goal earlier in the contest after Erik Johnson fed him the puck in the slot – between two Chicago defenders – and he backhanded a shot past Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford short side for his ninth tally of the year. The score gave Colorado a 2-1 lead and began a four-goal second period for the Avalanche.
The Haliburton, Ontario native finished the game with one goal and three assists and had his name announced through the air of Pepsi Center after four of the Avs’ first five goals of the game.
His four points tied a career-high for a game – last done on Nov. 4, 2011 at Dallas – and his three assists in the contest set a new career-high as well.
“Some nights they go in, some nights they don’t,” Duchene said. “I feel like last game, with any luck, it could’ve been the same result for our line and for a lot of guys individually, but we didn’t get the bounces. Thankfully, tonight we did.”
The win for Colorado ended Chicago’s season-opening point streak of 24 games, which the Avalanche almost stopped two nights earlier before the Blackhawks scored two goals in the final period to pick up the win.
Duchene also had a goal in that game, banking a shot off the back of Chicago goalie Ray Emery, which gave Colorado the lead at the time.
While the Avs weren’t able to break the Hawks’ streak on Wednesday night, to do it on Friday evening in front of the home crowd was still just as memorable.
“It was pretty special to do it in our hometown, in our city, in front of our fans,” Duchene said of the win. “It was special. We’ve got to keep going. We’ve got to get back up to .500 and over. We’ve got to keep rolling.”
O’Reilly, A Chicago Downer
He has only played in four games this season, but Ryan O’Reilly seems to like playing the Chicago Blackhawks.
After being held scoreless in his first two games, O’Reilly has three points in two games against Chicago, including a goal and an assist on Friday night at Pepsi Center – his first home game of the season.
“It feels great, coming back here with the fans, just to be around the atmosphere again, it’s a great feeling,” O’Reilly said. “It’s much easier, playing with that home crowd cheering you on.”
O’Reilly scored the Avalanche’s third goal of the second period with a slap shot from the right point, giving Colorado a 4-1 lead.
The tally came four seconds into an Avalanche power-play chance after Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford was called for tripping.
His assist in the second period gave John Mitchell the eventual game-winning goal. After taking a pass from Mitchell across the Blackhawks blue line, he found some room past defenseman Duncan Keith and fed the puck back to Mitchell in the slot where he scored on a wrist shot.
O’Reilly had picked up his first point of the season with an assist on another Mitchell goal on Wednesday in Chicago.
Another Streak, P.A. Style
For the second time this season, PA Parenteau had a three-point game. But for the first time in his career, he is on a five-game point streak.
Parenteau scored a goal and added two assists against the Blackhawks and now has eight points (two goals and six assists) over his last five contests.
The Hull, Quebec native’s tally against Chicago came with less than five minutes remaining and extended Colorado’s lead back to four goals.
His assists, though, had a much bigger impact on the outcome of game. His first came on Paul Stastny’s tip-in goal in the first period, tying the game at 1-1, and his second on Jamie McGinn’s wrist shot in front, giving Colorado a 5-1 lead.
“I’m just trying to do my thing, get on the scoresheet every night, help the team to win, try and work hard and get the ‘W’ at the end of the day – that is what we’ve been trying to do,” Parenteau said before the game versus Chicago.
His five-game streak is also the longest by an Avalanche player this season. He had reached his previous high of four straight games with a point five different times in his career.
• The Avalanche’s victory tonight snapped Chicago’s streak of 24 consecutive games with a point to start the season, longest in NHL history…The Blackhawks’ streak was actually 30 straight games with a point dating back to last season, as tonight was their first regulation loss since March 25, 2012 vs. Nashville…Colorado’s win also ended the Blackhawks’ franchise record 11-game winning streak.
• Colorado has won a season-high four straight games at home and improved to 7-2-1 at Pepsi Center this year.
• The Avs matched their season high with six goals (also Feb. 18 vs. Nashville and Jan. 31 at Calgary)…The Avalanche tallied a season-high two power-play goals.
• The Avalanche scored four goals in the second period (on nine shots), matching a season high for goals in a single period…The Avs also had four goals in the second period on Feb. 18 vs. Nashville…The second period is Colorado’s most productive so far this season, as 29 of the club’s 58 goals have come in the middle frame.
• Matt Duchene has a team-high seven multiple point games this year, which includes four games with three or more points…Duchene has 16 points (6g/10a) in 10 games on home ice.
• P.A. Parenteau tied his career high with three points tonight (1g/2a)…It was his second three-point game of the season and sixth of his NHL career.
• Both Duchene and Parenteau surpassed the 100-career assist mark tonight, as Parenteau’s two helpers gives him 101 career assists while Duchene’s three gives him exactly 100 NHL assists.
• Paul Stastny had a season-high three points (1g/2a).
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