Before the season started, Avalanche Head Coach Joel Quenneville made one thing clear to his team: Games 1-through-10 were going to be just as important as games 72-through-82.
Tonight at Pepsi Center against the Calgary Flames, Colorado played like a team fighting tooth-and-nail for a playoff berth. The Avalanche showed incredible poise in rallying back from a 4-0 second-period deficit to come away with a 5-4 shootout victory.
“It was a nice win for us. It’s important that we don’t lose focus of what our game plan is and structurally we weren’t doing it in the first period,” said Avalanche forward Ryan Smyth. “We talked about little things and emotionally getting into it. We found a way to capitalize on a few breaks.”
The Flames led the game, 3-0, after 20 minutes and stretched their lead to four goals on Jarome Iginla’s second tally of the game at the 2:50 mark of the second period.
That’s when the tide started to turn.
Jose Theodore replaced starter Peter Budaj in goal, and only thirteen seconds later, Marek Svatos notched Colorado’s first goal of the game off an assist from Paul Stastny.
But the never-say-die Avalanche wasn’t finished yet.
Smyth made it a 4-2 contest when his slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle bounced off Miikka Kiprusoff’s pads before deflecting off a Calgary defender and into the net at the 10:12 mark.
It was around that time Avalanche fans realized they might be in for something special on Tuesday night.
Just over two minutes later, with Iginla off for a double minor for high-sticking, Andrew Brunette threw a pass toward the goal that deflected off Adrian Aucoin’s skate and past Kiprusoff. Kurt Sauer then rifled a slap shot from the point past Kiprusoff at the 16:23 mark to tie even game.
Things cooled off a bit after Sauer’s tally and the game remained tied through the remainder of regulation and the overtime session, leading to a shootout.
Wojtek Wolski notched the first goal of the shootout when he made Kiprusoff bite on a fake to his backhand before pulling the puck back to his forehand. Theodore then made a pad save on Dion Phaneuf’s attempt.
Next, Smyth tucked a backhand between Kiprusoff’s legs to give the Avs a 2-0 advantage before Iginla beat Theodore stick side to close the gap to one.
After Joe Sakic’s backhand sailed high on Colorado’s final attempt, Theodore again came up big for the Avs, stopping Alex Tanguay’s low shot to seal the dramatic victory.
Theodore stopped all 17 shots he faced to earn the victory in goal.
“If you look at the goals they scored, they were great goals. They were all over us in the first period,” said Theodore. “But then after that we really started to put the puck on Kiprusoff. We got a couple of lucky bounces and the guys just battled back. It just shows you how much character the guys in front of me have.”
Notes: Tonight’s game marked the Avalanche’s largest comeback win since rallying from a five-goal deficit to defeat the Florida Panthers, 7-5, on March 3, 1999 in Florida…Colorado trailed 5-0 in that game and scored six times in the third period behind a hat trick by Peter Forsberg… Stastny recorded three assists on the evening to extend his point streak to four games. Stastny (5g/8a) is currently tied with Detroit’s Hendrik Zetterberg for the league lead with 13 points.
1 - 0 CGY
2 - 0 CGY
3 - 0 CGY
4 - 0 CGY
4 - 1 CGY
4 - 2 CGY