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Officially eliminated from the playoffs and embarrassed in their last game, the Colorado Avalanche players and coaches have spent the last few days leading up to tonight’s contest versus the Nashville Predators saying they were playing their final 3 games of the season, all at home, for the pleasure of the fans to say thank you for the year-long support. For the first 35 minutes of the game, it seemed to be an offensive message the Avs were sending as they were losing 1-0 and being outshot 23-7. One good break later, the game was changed and an unlikely but long-awaited hero would rise to the occasion as the Avs staved off the Predators, 3-2.
With just under 5 minutes to play remaining in the second period, the course of the game changed dramatically when Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm fell down and watched Avs forward Matt Duchene corral the suddenly free puck, chip it to pinching defenseman Tyson Barrie, who slid the puck across the face of the goal to waiting forward Jarome Iginla, who effortlessly deposited his 27th goal of the season behind Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.
9 seconds later, after an aggressive forecheck by Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly found himself alone in the slow and fired the puck top shelf behind Rinne for his 18th goal of the season, who went from winning a game in which he was barely tested to suddenly losing despite having seen only 12 shots up to that point.
Suddenly controlling play, Colorado would close the shots gap to 28-16 after two and looked like maybe they had some gas left in the tank after all. 1:20 into the third period, the Predators would halt that momentum and Ryan Ellis would score his 9th goal of the season on the power play and bring the game to a 2-2 tie.
6 minutes later, rookie Avs forward Joey Hishon would gather the puck at center ice off a neutral zone turnover by the Predators, dart into the offensive zone by himself, create space with a crafty dangle and snipe the puck between two defenders and past Rinne. The goal would be Hishon’s first in his career and one both he and Avs fans have looked forward to since the day he was drafted 17th overall in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft. Hishon’s route to the NHL, written about many times throughout his career, including recently by yours truly, was one filled with many bumps and bruises as he missed two full years of playing hockey due to symptoms stemming from a concussion he received as a result of an elbow to the head in his final season of junior hockey.
Hishon’s goal would stand up as the game-winning goal despite the Avs giving up 14 shots in every period because Semyon Varlamov was his typical outstanding self en-route to making 40 saves and the Avs held off a late Predators barrage of shots to win it.
3 Stars of the Game:
- Joey Hishon – game-winning goal (1st career NHL goal), 2 shots, 10:50 TOI
- Ryan O’Reilly – 1 goal, 3 shots, 21:58 TOI
- Jarome Iginla – 1 goal, 5 shots, 22:02 TOI