It’s a common refrain that in big games, you need your best players to be just that.
During Monday’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings, Matt Duchene
– the Avs’ leader in goals and points heading into the night – was the catalyst that led his team to a 5-4 victory by tying his career high with three points (2/g1a).
Although it may have been a typical midseason contest between two conference opponents, it didn’t feel that way for the home team.
Following Sunday’s practice, Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco decreed that he expected nothing less than a full 60-minute effort from his club, which had gone 2-5-2 in its last nine games and 1-4-2 in its last seven at Pepsi Center. In response, Duchene and the Avalanche came out flying in the first period.
The second-year center scored twice in the opening frame to help the Avs jump out to a 4-2 advantage. Duchene flashed his impressive speed on the first tally, picking up the puck just outside the blue line and getting the angle on Nicklas Lidstrom before putting a low shot past Jimmy Howard at 8:32.
His second goal came 5:43 later, when he worked a nice give-and-go with Tomas Fleischmann that ended with Duchene sending a one-timer into a wide open net from the right circle.
The forward nearly added a third goal in the opening 20 minutes, as he got behind the Detroit defense with two minutes remaining and hit the post with his attempt despite being hooked by Brian Rafalski – who received a penalty on the play.
Duchene carried over his strong play into the second period, drawing an assist on a David Jones
tally at 6:51. After a Detroit point shot missed its target, bounced off the end boards and came all the way out of the zone, Duchene picked it up and then found a streaking Jones for the latter’s 14th goal of the season.
“We had some opportunities and we jumped on them and we were able to convert them and when you’re able to do that things go pretty well," said Duchene.
Like Duchene, Jones also tied his career-high with three points (1g/2a) tonight. Jones had previously recorded three-point efforts on four separate occasions, the most recent of which came on Nov. 12 at Columbus (2g/1a). Jones also tallied three points (2g/1a) when the Avs and Wings met up on Oct. 12 in Detroit.Lineup Changes
There were three changes to the Avalanche’s lineup when compared to Saturday’s afternoon tilt against the New York Islanders.
First, rookie Kevin Shattenkirk missed tonight’s contest with a foot injury suffered while blocking a shot during the second period of Saturday’s game. Shattenkirk was replaced on the Avalanche blue line by fellow rookie Jonas Holos
, who made just his second appearance in the past nine games.
, who was a healthy scratch last game, took over for David Koci up front. Mauldin drew an interference penalty on Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson midway through the first period by utilizing an aggressive forecheck. With Mauldin skating down the puck carrier, Ericsson was forced to step in front of the Avalanche forward to shield his teammate, and was subsequently sent to the penalty box.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Peter Budaj received the start in goal tonight. Budaj came up with some big saves throughout the contest, but was spectacular during a two-minute stretch during the first period while Ryan O’Reilly was in the penalty box for goaltender interference.
With the Avs short-handed, Budaj first made an impressive toe save on Henrik Zetterberg, sliding left to right after Zetterberg had been set up by Johan Franzen. He then made a nice glove stop on Lidstrom, who had a seemingly open net from the lower right circle. Finally, just as O’Reilly was coming out of the box, Budaj capped off the stretch by making a big stop on Jiri Hudler’s shot from the slot.Interesting Schedule Note
Although both the Avalanche and the Red Wings just recently reached the midway points of their respective schedules, the two teams wrapped up their season series tonight.
That note becomes even more interesting when you realize that Colorado has yet to face two of its Western Conference foes – Anaheim and Nashville – a single time so far this season. The Avalanche will face the Ducks and Predators four times apiece during the 2010-11 campaign, with Colorado and Nashville squaring off for the first time on Jan. 20, and the Avs and Ducks first meeting on Feb. 5 (both games will be at Pepsi Center.
Colorado will also wrap up its four-game season series with the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, meaning the Avs will have played Detroit and Chicago a combined eight times before facing either Anaheim or Nashville.