Sunday, January 6, 2008

Avs Win Goaltending Battle, Wolski + Theodore Shine

For Jose Theodore and Wojtek Wolski, it was one of those nights where the stars aligned and neither of them could be stopped.

The Islanders took a lead in the first period, despite being outshot 15-4 by the Islanders. Rick DiPietro was terrific not just through the first, but the entire game as well.

It was looking as if the game might end up in a soccer score, as DiPietro was playing so well. Pad save after pad save and it seemed as if the Avs just couldn't solve him.

In the second, the Avs once again outshot the Islanders 11-10, but it wasn't until the 11th shot when Jordan Leopold was pinching in close to the Isles net and managed to squeak one through DiPietro's five hole. It was the kind of goal the Avs needed and it tied the score 1-1.

In the game, Quenville dressed 8 defensemen and put Cumiskey and Boychuk (in his first game) on the wings. They played well, not logging much ice time.

One player who shined for the Avs was Wojtek Wolski, who looked more like Peter Forsberg in the game. He had a chance to show off his stickhandling skills, at one point, holding the puck for a good 30 seconds before making a beautiful pass that resulted in a scoring chance. He started the game on the fourth line, but played with Stastny and Hejduk for most of the game.

But for the Avalanche, this game was about Jose Theodore, who faced 20 shots in the last two periods and stopped them all. Two of the saves were particularly brilliant, including a save in which the player had two chances, and each time, Theodore, sprawled out on the ice, made the stop with his pad. The second, on a hard slap shot in close, Theodore reached down to make the glove save, and held it up (Ala Patrick Roy) and did the old "statue of liberty."

To highlight one more played that stood out, especially in the third, Brett Clark played a great game. In a key 3-on-1 break for the Islanders, Clark managed to break it up and didn't even let them get a shot. On another play, late in the third period, an Islanders player was walking in on goal when Clark dove across the ice and made a perfect poke check to break up the play. These two plays may have made the difference.

The Avs continued their relentless pressure in the third, registering 12 shots, but still, DiPietro wouldn't budge after that goal in the second.

With under two minutes to go in the game, Ian Laperierre took a high sticking penalty, giving the Islanders a power play. The Islanders have the 7th ranked power play on the road and the Avs penalty killing hasn't exactly been solid as of late.

The unit of Stastny, Hejduk, Finger, and Hannan managed to keep the Isles from getting many shots on goal and the game headed to OT.

In the OT, the 4-on-3 power play continued and was killed by the Avs.

A few minutes later, the Avs streaked into the zone, and on assists by John-Michael Liles and Scott Hannan, Marek Svatos scored the game winning goal to give the Avs the win. The goal gave Svatos the team lead with 16 and it was another example of his excellent play down low.

This was a big game for the Avs. Starting on Tuesday, they will play Detroit on what will become a 5-game road trip. This is a key part of the season for the Avalanche, who are four points back of first place in the division with two games in hand.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Jose Theodore (23 saves, easily his best game of the season, possibly as an Av)
2. Brett Clark (Several keep defensive plays which probably saved a goal or two and he had an assist)
3. Marek Svatos (Tough call to not go with Wolski, but Svatos played well all night long as well and he had the game winner)

Next Up

The Avs will go to the Joe to play the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday at 7:30 PM EST. I would expect Jose Theodore to get the start for the Avs.

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