While it may seem like a tired cliché, putting in a full 60-minute effort is the key to victory in the National Hockey League. Avalanche head coach Tony Granato has harped on that exact point throughout the season, and especially so during the Avalanche’s recent five-game skid.
Granato had to be thrilled Saturday night, as his club practiced what he had been preaching during a 1-0 victory over the Nashville Predators at Pepsi Center.
The Avs didn’t jump out to a particularly quick start, but they didn’t allow the Predators to do so either. Instead, Colorado simply played solid hockey from whistle-to-whistle, scored the first (and only) goal and put forth a steady effort in front of Peter Budaj.
“I think it was a huge win for our team, especially with us losing five in a row,” said Budaj. “I don’t think we played that bad in those five games but we couldn’t get it going. Tonight’s two points are really big, really crucial for our team.”
Darcy Tucker finally put the Avs on the board after over 35 minutes of scoreless hockey, notching his 200th career NHL goal off an assist from T.J. Hensick. The puck ended up on Tucker’s stick right outside the crease after Nashville’s Scott Nichol whiffed when trying to clear away Hensick’s soft centering pass.
The goal proved to be the difference in the game, as Budaj stopped all 26 shots he faced to earn the victory.
Even with the low final score, the night was full of end-to-end action.
Ian Laperriere had the best scoring opportunity of the first period. The Avalanche assistant captain found himself one-on-one with Nashville netminder Dan Ellis after cutting into the slot and receiving a pass from Ben Guite. A fake by Laperriere left a sprawling Ellis helpless, but the veteran forward’s attempt from a tough angle went through the crease and bounced off the far post.
Ellis also put up a stellar performance for Nashville, which included the save of the game with five minutes remaining in the third period. With the Avs holding a man-advantage, Hensick threw a cross-ice feed to Ryan Smyth in front of the Predators’ goal. Smyth one-timed the pass, but Ellis slid to his left and made a spectacular glove save before the puck crossed the goal line.
Sakic Leaves Game After taking 11 shifts in the first period, Avalanche captain Joe Sakic didn’t come out for the middle frame after he re-aggravated the back injury he suffered earlier in the week. The Avalanche captain first felt his back start to tighten up at Wednesday’s practice and subsequently missed Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
Sakic took the day off Friday, but was on the ice for Saturday’s morning skate.
On the Board First Colorado scored the all-important first goal of the game tonight against the Predators. It marked only the second time in Colorado’s last nine games that the club had gotten on the scoreboard first.
The Avalanche is now 3-1-0 on the season when tallying before its opponent.
“(Budaj) made the big saves for us, and we got a good bounce on the goal and sometimes that’s all you need to get you going,” said Tucker. “Anytime that things aren’t going your way, you’re hoping you get a bounce, or a fortunate play. We played hard for the last five periods, and played some pretty good hockey over the last five periods and tonight we were rewarded for it.”
Tonight’s game also marked the Avalanche’s first 1-0 victory since March 6, 2008 vs. Anaheim.
Half a Grand Tonight was the 500th regular season home game in Avalanche history. Since moving to Denver prior to the 1995-96 campaign, the Avs have played 998 total games, holding a 537-316-101-44 record. In 500 home contests, the club is 287-139-55-19.
Colorado will play its 1,000th regular season game since moving to Denver on Saturday night at Rexall Place in Edmonton – a contest that will double as the club’s 500th road game since 1995-96.