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Avs Win Another Close One

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
All signs pointed to a one-goal game when the Colorado Avalanche hosted the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Pepsi Center.

Coming into the game, 21 of Colorado’s 34 games had been decided by one goal, putting the club in a three-way tie with these very Red Wings and the Carolina Hurricanes for the most one-goal decisions in the league this season.

The Dec. 15 matchup between Colorado and Detroit was one of those 21 contests, with that game ending in a 3-2 Avalanche victory.

As it turns out, sometimes trends do in fact hold up. Tonight, the Avs topped the Red Wings by a 4-3 count following a shootout in a contest that had an atmosphere more reminiscent of a game held in May or June than late December. Ruslan Salei, Ryan Smyth and John-Michael Liles scored in regulation for the Avs, while Wojtek Wolski notched the lone goal of the shootout.

The first 40 minutes proved to be a tale of two periods.

The Avalanche tied a season-high for power-play goals in a game, notching a trio of tallies with a man advantage in the opening frame while outshooting Detroit 13-10.

Salei put the Avs on the board at 5:32 with a low shot from the slot. After Darcy Tucker dumped the puck deep into Detroit’s zone, David Jones won a battle behind the goal line and sent the puck out front. From there, Salei pinched in and beat Red Wings netminder Ty Conklin for his first tally of the season.

Colorado took a 2-0 lead when Smyth deposited the rebound of a Milan Hejduk attempt. Hejduk’s original shot sailed wide of the net, but hit the end boards and bounced back in front of the Detroit goal, where Smyth pounced on it at 10:05.

The lead stretched to three goals heading into the first intermission when Liles put home a point shot at 14:17. A clearing attempt by Detroit’s Brad Stuart ended up on Liles’ stick at the right point and the blueliner quickly blasted a shot through a Smyth screen and into the goal.

The Red Wings dominated the second period, evening the game with a trio of goals (including two quick tallies on the power play) while holding a 17-12 shot advantage.

All three goals came in the final six minutes of the frame, with Pavel Datsyuk first burying his own rebound at 14:06 and Tomas Holmstrom tipping home a Mikael Samuelsson point shot at 15:38.

Johan Franzen then tallied the only even-strength goal of the first two periods when he beat Peter Budaj with a well-placed shot from the bottom of the right faceoff circle with the clock reading 1:57

The third period was scoreless, but it wasn’t for a lack of quality scoring chances. Budaj made perhaps the save of the game with just over three minutes remaining in regulation, stopping a point-blank attempt by Jiri Hudler by extending his left pad.

Following a scoreless extra session, Wolski scored the lone goal of the shootout on Colorado’s first attempt and Budaj stopped all three Detroit shooters to seal the win.

Continuing Shootout Success
Following tonight’s victory, the Avalanche improved to 7-1 in shootouts this season and 11-1 in its last 12 shootouts overall. Earlier this season, Colorado saw its streak of eight consecutive shootout wins come to an end with a 2-1 loss in Dallas on Dec. 5.

With his goal, Wolski improved his career shootout percentage to 61.9% (13-of-21), second all-time to San Jose’s Joe Pavelski (64.7%; 11-of-17). Wolski’s six shootout goals this season lead all NHL players.

Power-Play Clicking
Coming into the game, Colorado ranked 20th in the league in power-play percentage at 16.2% (24-for-148). However, the Avs converted on three of their six chances tonight, marking the club’s second straight game with multiple power-play goals (the Avs went 2-for-5 in Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime win over Phoenix). Colorado is now 13-5-0 when it scores a power-play goal and 5-2-0 when tallying two or more.

Liles Near Milestone
With his first period goal, Liles inched closer to the 50-goal mark for his career. The defenseman has 48 tallies in 346 NHL games, moving him within two goals of becoming the fifth blueliner in franchise history to hit that milestone. Liles’ marker tonight was his 24th on the power play, meaning exactly half of his career tallies have come with the man advantage.
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