The Colorado Avalanche looked to be in line for a third straight loss heading into the third period of Wednesday night's game against the Edmonton Oilers. Colorado was down 2-1 and although showing signs of life, they couldn't seem to score.
To make matters worse, they were playing on home ice at the Pepsi Center where they were an abysmal 3-8 on the season. But, the third period and especially the play of rookie Stefan Elliott turned that all around.
Six minutes into the final period, fellow defenseman Shane O'Brien ripped a slapshot past Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk. Almost immediately afterward, Edmonton had a 2-on-1 breakaway with Stefan Elliott and goalie Semyon Varlamov as the last defense.
Elliott came up big. He blocked a likely assist and eight minutes into the period, Elliott made another big play, this time on offense. With a sneaky snapshot that was screened down low, Elliott scored his first goal in his first game. He played a strong defensive game, scored the game winning goal, and was named the first star of the game. Not bad at all.
Elliott, a third-round steal in the same draft that brought the Avs the likes of Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, was named WHL Defenseman of the Year earlier this year. He led the league in points by a defenseman (81 points in 71 games) and prior to being recalled to the NHL had two goals and seven assists in 18 games with the Lake Erie Monsters.
Coming into the 2011 season, Elliott was expected to compete for a spot on the Avalanche but was cut in favor of larger defenseman. Last night, he made the case that size does not matter.
As the replacement for injured Erik Johnson (groin), Elliott provided a spark that was reminiscent of Gabriel Landeskog early in the season. He was all over the place and accumulated almost 20 minutes of ice time. Coaches, players, and fans alike were impressed and the Avs have to be excited about the future of this guy. Johnson is expected to be out for another couple of games so Elliott will have opportunities to prove his NHL merit.
I like Elliott. I think the Avalanche ought to give him more than a couple games to see what he's got. Wednesday's game was one of the Avs best of the year; hopefully Elliott can bring more of the same on Monday when the Avalanche faceoff against the Dallas Stars.