Last night was a big game for the Colorado Avalanche. Fortunately, they showed up and played a big game. In a fantastic first period, the Avs scored three goals and chased Kings' starting goalie Jonathan Quick, one of the best netminders in the league.
The Avs took all four meetings with the Kings this season, their first season sweep since the Quebec Nordiques swept the Kings in 1992-93.
Rookie Gabriel Landeskog was born in 1992. Mark Olver opened up the scoring with a nice wrister that beat Quick. It was Olver's second goal and third point in three games this season. Paul Stastny took advantage of a sloppy play behind his own net by Kyle Clifford and scored on an unassisted wrap-around. Jay McClement tipped home a nice feed from Ryan O'Reilly to give the Avs a 3-0 advantage before the first intermission.
Stastny would add another one in the second when Gabriel Landeskog took a pass from Matt Duchene and drove hard to the net. Jonathan Bernier, Quick's replacement, was unable to cover and Stastny swooped in to put the puck in the back of the net. Duchene recorded an assist on the play, his first point since returning from injury.
While Stastny had his best game in some time, the No. 1 star of the night was Semyon Varlamov. He finished the night with 32 saves and more than once kept the game out of reach for L.A. when it looked like they were about to strike to get themselves back in it.
Varly was close to his third shutout of the season but had his bid spoiled on a Dustin Brown tip of a Drew Doughty shot in the third. Mark Olver, who lost the face-off, blamed himself for the goal against. Aside from that one blemish, the Avs played a very strong game.
If they keep producing efforts like last night, they will remain in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
I saw some good things from Steve Downie in his Avalanche debut. While he did not show up on the score sheet, he definitely showed the Avalanche fans, his teammates and the coaching staff what he brings to the table. He was often seen right in front of Quick or Bernier, willing to take punishment from opposing defensemen to create room for his offensive linemates.
Jan Hejda played a very strong game as well, finishing plus-three on the night. Much, much better than his performance in Winnipeg on Sunday, but you could say that about almost the entire team.
One negative is the fact that Erik Johnson left the game with back spasms after the first period and did not return. It is unknown what his status for this weekend's games will be.
While the Avs are still currently in 11th place in the West, they are within two points of the eighth-place Kings. The Avalanche will need to keep their collective foot on the gas and keep playing good, strong hockey to earn two points on a nightly basis down the stretch.
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