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Slow starts have become a norm for the Colorado Avalanche as the entered tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, game one of five straight at home for the Avs. Tonight, the offense finally found its legs early but the defensive struggles remained, creating a run-and-gun atmosphere against a team that excels when defense is optional.
A Patrick Wiercioch pass in front of his own goal nearly turned into a disastrous turnover but instead it found its way to Mikko Rantanen, who chipped it up the boards past the defense to a full-speed Nathan MacKinnon, who flew down the ice in a two-on-one with Rene Bourque. MacKinnon eschewed the pass and picked a corner, beating Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot to put Colorado ahead 1-0 just 5:50 into the game. The goal was Colorado’s first first-period goal since November 1.
The Avalanche could not resist the self-destructive tendencies that have frequently plagued them this season as Nikita Zadorov made a simple pass to Francois Beauchemin, who booted the play entirely and gave Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the puck with nobody around him and he beat Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov, tying the game at 1 apiece.
The high-scoring first period wasn’t quite over, however, as the Avalanche generated some impressive offense, beginning with a Fedor Tyutin pass to MacKinnon down low. MacKinnon then made an excellent cross-ice pass to Bourque, who one-timed the puck past Talbot, giving Colorado a 2-1 lead with just under three minutes remaining in the first.
Having not made an impact yet, the officials would make themselves known with an extremely questionable Hooking call against Jarome Iginla, putting Edmonton on the power play. Given the impressive forward corps the Oilers boast, it was no surprise when they found the back of the net, courtesy of a Jordan Eberle shot, to tie the game at 2-2 going into the second period.
Clearly enjoying the spotlight, officials would continue changing the face of the game as the whistles came fast and furious throughout the second period. Colorado tied the game just as one of their power plays was ending as Tyson Barrie ripped a shot from the point. Bourque deflected the puck into the net for his second of the night, pushing Colorado back ahead 3-2.
Fireworks would fly, however, as the Avalanche were killing a Francois Beauchemin penalty when MacKinnon got blown up at center ice by Matthew Benning, leaving MacKinnon injured and a slew of anger as Joe Colborne immediately went after Benning, sending both to the penalty box. The penalties were killed, MacKinnon returned to the ice, and the Avs held on to their one-goal lead entering the third period.
Edmonton wasted basically no time in tying the score in the third period as Connor McDavid drove the net hard, ultimately being denied, but Milan Lucic put home the rebound, bringing the game to 3-3 just seconds into the game’s final planned frame.
McDavid wasn’t done, however, as he chased a puck behind the net in transition and banked his shot off Varlamov, who was still in the process of recovering, and gave the Oilers the 4-3 lead just over 6 minutes into the period.
The officials weren’t done changing the complexion of the game, again turning to Iginla as they called Tripping on contact that wouldn’t draw a call in your average beer league, and the Oilers would naturally capitalize on the opportunity, this time a Leon Drasaitl tally. McDavid got an assist, giving him three points in the third period’s first eight minutes.
Eberle would score his second of the night into an empty-net with 15 seconds remaining to bring the game to a 6-3 final score.
1. Connor McDavid
2. Milan Lucic
3. Rene Bourque
PLAY OF THE GAME
McDavid’s goal was basically a one-man show as he exploded through the neutral zone, left Tyson Barrie flat-footed, and then had the presence of mind to notice Varlamov still out of position and banked the puck off him for the game-winning goal.
The horrific penalty call on Jarome Iginla at 7:00 of the third period was an embarrassment to hockey officials everywhere at any level. Under no circumstances should that call ever be made, especially in the NHL. The call put an already snowballing game out of reach for the Avalanche as Draisatl’s goal made it a two-goal lead.
BY THE NUMBERS
The second game of Colorado’s homestand is Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. local time.