There are turning points in every hockey game, and Thursday night's came in the form of a short-handed goal.
Nearly three-and-a-half minutes after the Avalanche tied the game at 2-2 late in the second period, Colorado forward Marc-Andre Cliche intercepted an Edmonton pass at the Avs blue line and began a two-on-one rush up the ice during an Oilers power play.
Cliche made a nice pass to Maxime Talbot in the slot, and Talbot made a move that got Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk to bite to the right, opening up space to the far side. Talbot then let a backhand shot go and just got the puck past the goalie's pad and into the cage for the eventual game winner.
|Marc-Andre Cliche celebrates Maxime Talbot's short-handed goal against goaltender Devan Dubnyk. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) |
"There is always a key moment in a game and that short-handed goal by Talbot on an outstanding play by Cliche at the blue line and a nice pass as well, I think that was the turning point of the game," Avs coach Patrick Roy said. "That gave us a 3-2 lead going into the third and it’s a lot different then being tied or behind."
Talbot's fourth goal of the season came with 1:28 remaining in the second period and capped off a strong middle frame. Colorado came back from one-goal deficits twice in the period with Tyson Barrie scoring on the power play at 1:07 and Ryan O'Reilly scoring at 15:00.
After Patrick Bordeleau was called for interference with 2:03 until intermission, Edmonton had the chance to capitalize with the man-advantage and bring the momentum back to its side. Instead, it was the Avs who got on the scoreboard after Cliche stuck his stick out to knock the puck back toward the neutral zone.
"It was a tight game tonight and special teams is such an important part of the game," said Talbot, who is now tied for eighth among active players with 16 career short-handed goals. "On that play especially, Clicher (Marc-Andre Cliche) did a good play, first of all good defensive play by cutting the pass, going on the break on a two-on-one and after that, he made a really nice pass to me, I closed my eyes and put it in.”
It was the Oilers' eighth short-handed goal given up this season, which is the most in the NHL, while it was the Avalanche's second goal while being a man-down on the ice this year. Alex Tanguay scored Colorado's the first short-handed tally Oct. 12 at Washington.
"It's always good for our guys to score short-handed," Roy said. "It's certainly good for their confidence, and it turned out to be a key play for us tonight."
DUCHENE CONTINUES TO PROVE HE'S BACK TO 'NORMAL'
Matt Duchene continued his strong play Thursday as he posted his third straight multi-point game and his fourth in the past five contests.
Duchene had a goal and two assists for his fourth three-point game and ninth multi-point effort of the season. Duchene has 10 points in his last five games (four goals and six assists) after having just one point in his first seven games in his return from an oblique injury.
“I was in a huge slump before this so you just stick with it to try and get back to [the] basics obviously after getting hurt and sick there," Duchene said. "When it goes in, it goes in, when it doesn’t, it doesn’t and that’s hockey."
Duchene began the season with 20 points (12 goals, eight assists) in his first 19 games of the season.
He assisted on Colorado's first two goals of the game and made a key move on the second to help the Avs tie the game at two. He split two Edmonton defenders while coming up the right side, curled up at the circle and passed to MacKinnon at the point. MacKinnon then passed the puck to Ryan O'Reilly in the slot for an easy tap-in goal.
Roy said what he has been impressed with the most in Duchene's game is his defensive play.
"I think he is playing really well offensively and defensively, that's the thing I like about his game," Roy said. "You can have players that play well offensively, but if they are not capable of playing good defensively it hurts their game. I think right now Dutchy is playing well in both zones."
Duchene leads Colorado in goals (16), points (31), power-play goals (4), game-winning goals (3-tied) and shots (103). He is two goals shy of 100 for his career and would become the 20th player in franchise history and the ninth player in Avalanche history to reach the century mark.
WILSON TO PLAY IN LA?
Defenseman Ryan Wilson is making progress in his conditioning, and Roy said he could play Saturday in Los Angeles.
Roy said he still wants to discuss with strength and conditioning coach Casey Bond before he plays Wilson, who injured his back on Nov. 6 against Nashville. Wilson is fully healed from the injury and was activated from injured reserve on Dec. 14, but Roy wanted to get his conditioning up before he played him in a game.
He has been participating in Avs practices and has been skating on days when the Avs don't have on-ice sessions. He did hard skating for nearly an hour Wednesday with defense development consultant Adam Foote at Family Sports Center.
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
-At 23-10-1, the Avs have equaled their most wins through 34 games in franchise history (23-8-3 in 1994-95).
-Tyson Barrie extended his point streak to three games (2g/1a), tying his career-long streak set Feb. 14-18, 2013
-Colorado's defensemen have scored five of the team's last 10 goals.
-Goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves for his 16th win of the season. It was a nice bounce-back performance against after the Oilers scored eight times during the clubs' first meeting on Nov. 5, even though Roy said it wasn't Varlamov's fault and that Edmonton scored on "perfect shots."
-Nick Holden, Brad Malone and Ryan Wilson were healthy scratches for the Avalanche.