This was a tale of two halves for the Avalanche, a game divided almost exactly into thirty minute sections in which two entirely different teams seemed to show up for the Avs. A hot start, seemed like the Avs would win this one handily, but as the tides turned, so did the momentum and ultimately it fell on the side of Philadelphia. The Flyers would win this one against Colorado 4-2 in the end.
The first period and a half for the Avalanche was perhaps some of the best hockey the team has played all year. They were controlling the puck, putting shots on net, and not allowing Philadelphia to even penetrate their zone. Offensively and defensively the team looked great, and then after scoring their first goal the Avs started to sit back and stopped putting the same pressure on the Flyers.
The first period ended 0-0, but the shots strongly favored the Avalanche as they outshot Philly 15-7. They were putting shots on goal, the defensemen were jumping up into the play, and they just generally dominated. It continued into the second period until Nick Holden scored the first goal for the Avs. The shot came from Girgorenko who was the prime reason for the goal, but it ricocheted off of Holden’s skate who would earn credit for the goal. Earning the other assist was Mikkel Boedker who is continuing to play well for the Avalanche.
After that first goal Philly started to play the way the Avs had been playing and quickly took over. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare would score the first goal for the Flyers on a tip in on a slap shot from Flyers star defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. That would tie the game up 1-1.
After a lot of arguing to end the period and some almost fights, the third period would start with 4-4 action. The Avalanche regained some of their lost energy, primarily due to John Mitchell who played a fantastic third period, but after the Avalanche goal by Mitchell that put them ahead, the Avs couldn’t keep control of the game.
Radko Gudas and Claude Giroux would score 19 seconds apart to put Philadelphia ahead for good. Those two goals completed deflated the Avs as they couldn’t get much going at all in the last five minutes of the game. Ryan White would earn an empty net goal as he was tripped before putting the puck into the net. The final score was 4-2 and for the Avalanche the loss was killer.
The Avs now sit 3 points behind the Minnesota Wild who won Thursday night big over the Calgary Flames 6-2. The Avalanche do play Minnesota one more time and do have a game in hand, but the Wild control their own destiny and if they win out they will make the playoffs over the Avalanche. The game Saturday against the Wild is an absolute must win as without the win they will fall to 5 points behind. The Avalanche can’t really even let the game go into overtime. Some magic will be needed and the team is going to have to play extra hard, especially missing Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon for at least one more game each, if they want a shot at the playoffs. I’m hopeful the Avalanche can do it, but only if they play like they did in the first half of this game. If they play like they did in the second half, there isn’t much hope.