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One of the saving graces of being realistically eliminated from the playoff race with two weeks left to play is the opportunity to give some players a chance a team normally otherwise would not be willing to provide. Such is the case of the Colorado Avalanche tonight in giving yet another opportunity to backup goaltender Reto Berra, whose play this year has been uninspiring after the team took a large leap of faith in acquiring him last season for a 2nd round draft choice and immediately signing him to a 3-year contract extension that made him the 9th-highest paid backup goaltender entering this NHL season.
Making just his second starts since November, Berra, who entered the game with a .906 save percentage and 2.97 goals-against-average, would play strong and give hope for the future that he can lock down the backup goaltender job next season despite tonight’s misleading final score, 5-1 in favor of the hosting San Jose Sharks. Berra made 24 saves on 27 shots and kept the Avalanche competitive in the game until Patrick Roy pulled the goalie with over 4 minutes left in the third period and the Sharks scored 2 empty-net goals in quick succession.
A closely contested first two periods would eventually give way to a laugher of a 3rd period but Berra and the Avs came out with a much-improved effort after their virtual flatline last game against the Edmonton Oilers and being bag-skated by Head Coach Patrick Roy during Monday’s practice session. The Avs were still outshot 10-8 in the 1st period and 30-20 overall but the game was much more competitive than the numbers would suggest as scoring chances were a virtual dead heat after two periods.
Nonetheless, the improved effort was not enough for the Avs as an unfortunate sequence for Avs forward Dennis Everberg gave the Sharks the room they needed in order to capitalize for the game’s first goal at 16:35 of the second period. a beautiful tip-in goal by former Avalanche defenseman Scott Hannan. Everberg blocked two consecutive shots, one directly off his kneecap that left his mobility limited for the remainder of the shift, and Sharks defenseman Brent Burns would take advantage of the additional space to make a great shot-pass to Hannan, who was cutting in front of the net.
The Sharks would add to their lead 8 minutes into the 3rd period as Chris Tierney took advantage of several miscues in a row by Berra, who failed at trying to catch the puck with his glove on 3 consecutive attempts, and tapped the puck into an empty-net for the 2-0 lead.
A Delay of Game penalty on the Sharks just seconds later would give the Avs their second power play of the night and a beautiful read by defenseman Zach Redmond to make a perfect tape-to-tape pass to Matt Duchene resulted in Duchene beating Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock, making it 2-1 and giving Duchene his 20th goal of the season, the fourth time in his career he has achieved that feat.
The Sharks waste little time in responding to the Avs goal as their top line outworked the Avs top line and a complete defensive breakdown left Patrick Marleau in front of the Avs net with the puck and Marleau, who had 454 career goals entering the game, would deposit the puck behind a helpless Berra, giving the Sharks the 3-1 lead that would serve as the catalyst for Roy to pull the goalie so early.
Overall for the Avs, a better effort than the Oilers game two days ago but the result was still the same, as the Avs lost their 13th straight game in San Jose, a streak dating back to 2009, and pushing the Avs to the brink of mathematical elimination, which could happen as soon as Friday night.
3 Stars of the Game:
- Alex Stalock – 19 saves on 20 shots
- Scott Hannan – 1 goal, 3 shots, 1 hit, 14:08 TOI
- Chris Tierney – 1 goal, 1 shot, 15:20 TOI