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Sports are filled with hyperbole. Everywhere you look, you’re seeing the “GREATEST TEAM OF ALL-TIME” or a rough equivalent. You’re never not in the presence of greatness when you’re witnessing sports unfold on a live stage. When I say that this Colorado Avalanche team might be the most resilient team since the glory days of Sakic, Roy, and Forsberg I’m not purposely being hyperbolic.
This is a team that’s been given every reason to give up throughout the season. An atrocious two months to start the season put them in nearly impossible-to-overcome statistical odds to make the playoffs. Their only All-Star this season, defenseman Erik Johnson, languished through knee pain for weeks before finally having surgery and has only just recently resumed skating. Then their most effective and dangerous offensive threat in Nathan MacKinnon went down with a broken foot, ending his season. Still, this team persevered through the trenches of the lengthy NHL schedule that at times felt stacked against them, the tough Western Conference and the brutal Central Division, maybe the most competitive division in all of sports.
It doesn’t really matter that the Avalanche are almost mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with 8 games to play. It doesn’t even matter that the Avs continue to play without two of their best players. What matters is that this team is going down fighting in a way this organization has not seen at all in recent years. Just 3 years ago in the spring of 2012, the Avs were in the midst of missing the playoffs just like this season, except they finished the season 5-26-2. Right now, they’re 7-3-1 in March alone.
So, it should come as no surprise that the Avalanche, coming off a bad loss in Edmonton last night, came into Vancouver on the second night of a back-to-back and simply dominated the rested Vancouver Canucks, 4-1. The Avs set the tone early, with the aid of a lengthy 5-on-3 power play they failed to score on, firing anything and everything at Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack to the tune of outshooting the Canucks 18-5 in the first period.
Though scoreless to the start the second period, the Avs came out with the same fire that propelled them to such an impressive first period showing and started burying the puck behind Lack to make their statement that they were not going gently into that good night. The scoring started 3 minutes into the second with a beautiful tip-in from Jarome Iginla, his team-leading 26th goal of the season, off a Gabriel Landeskog shot after he circle the entire Canucks zone with the puck looking to make a play.
7 minutes later, the Avalanche top line would strike again, this time Alex Tanguay scoring his 22nd goal of the season off a puck sent off the backboards by Zach Redmond, who notched his 12th assist of the season on the play. The 2-0 lead would not last long as just over 2 minutes later, Landeskog would score his 22nd of the season on the power play, with assists going to Tanguay and Ryan O’Reilly, who also assisted on Tanguay’s goal.
The 3-0 lead after the second period was buoyed by the Avs outshooting the Canucks, 31-16. That kind of dominance in the NHL typically doesn’t last an entire game and the Canucks, who are still very much in a battle to make the postseason, seemed to realize that this game actually counted in the standings and came out swinging in the 3rd period.
The Avs would find their answer to the Canucks 3rd period pressure in the form of goaltender Reto Berra, making his first start since last November. He would give a power play goal to the Canucks just 15 seconds into the 3rd period but stonewalled them the rest of the way, making a whopping 17 3rd period saves and stopping 33 of 34 shots in the game.
A late empty-net goal while on the power play by John Mitchell, with an assist to Matt Duchene who stole the puck on a great piece of backchecking, would bring the game to its final tally of 4-1. With nothing to play for other than pride, the Avs went out and smoked a team with everything left to play. There’s no hyperbole in saying this is a team every Avs fan can be proud of.
3 Stars of the Game:
- Jarome Iginla – 1 goal, 6 shots, 2 PIMs, 22:35 TOI
- Ryan O’Reilly – 2 assists, 2 shots, 18:44 TOI
- Yannick Weber – 1 goal, 3 shots, 3 hits 22:09 TOI