The Colorado Avalanche have not had much to cheer about this season. The team failed to score a goal in their first two games, and have not looked nearly as threatening as they did last year. Though the much-heralded offense of last year has yet to make an appearance, it was not needed to earn Colorado’s first victory of the season. Daniel Briere scored with 0.4 second left in regulation to lift the Colorado Avalanche (1-2-0) over the Boston Bruins (1-3-0) in Monday’s afternoon game.
Before the season began, this game was pegged as one that would pit a strong Western team against a strong Eastern team. The speed of the young Avalanche team would face off against the physical, veteran players of the Bruins. However, both teams have stumbled out of the starting gate, turning a marquee matchup into a comedy of errors. Colorado was handed a 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, while the Bruins fell 4-0 to the Washington Capitals on the same day. The lack of offense made an appearance in today’s game against well.
A scoreless first period was the most evenly matched period of the game. Not only did the two teams trade shot-for-shot, but the powerplay opportunities seemed even as well. Just under halfway into the period, forward Brad Marchand was deemed to have interfered with Avalanche goaltender Reto Berra. A questionable penalty, but one the Bruins had no trouble killing off. Seconds after the penalty ended, Boston was given a powerplay chance of their own, after Colorado winger Cody McLeod got his stick in the face of defenseman Adam McQuaid. Like the Bruins before them, the Avalanche successfully killed off the penalty. The two teams traded powerplay opportunities late in the period as well, starting the second period with 4-on-4 play.
Colorado came out of the first intermission a different team. Perhaps energized by the open ice that 4-on-4 allows, they easily took control of the puck early in the period. It was this control that led to the first goal of the game. After a failed wraparound attempt by Matt Duchene, pressure by Jamie McGuinn forced defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to throw the puck up the boards to his partner Daniel Paille. Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie jumped down from the point, forcing Paille to turn the puck over to McGuinn. A quick shot from the faceoff circles snuck under the arm of Boston goaltender Niklas Svedberg, giving the Avalanche their first goal of the season and the 1-0 lead.
The lead would not last long. A too many men on the ice penalty gave Boston their third powerplay of the game, and this time, they converted. A shot from defenseman Riley Smith hit Carl Soderberg, who was attempting to screen Berra from the shot. Soderberg, with his back facing the Avalanche goaltender, tapped the puck to Loui Eriksson, who easily backhanded the puck into the net. Less than midway through the game, and the two teams were even again. Frustration, either at the result of the game or of their respective seasons thus far, boiled over minutes later, as McQuaid and McLeod dropped the gloves at 11:02 of the second period.
Rather than bring more life into the game, as fights often do, the bout between the two seemed to deflate both teams. The rest of the second period, and most of the third period, was relatively uneventful. The game seemed destined for overtime, until Daniel Briere struck for the Avalanche in the dying seconds. Briere somehow snuck, unnoticed, behind the Boston defensemen, leaving him all alone in front of Svedberg. A simple wrist shot from the point from Jan Hejda made its way past a maze of bodies, and fell right onto Briere’s stick. Knowing the time on the clock, Briere quickly put the puck into the open net. Both the goal light and the end of period siren went off simultaneously, but a video review showed the puck crossing the goal line with 0.4 seconds left in the game.
“It’s certainly a good feeling to find a loose puck like that late in the game and get a big win, especially after the start that we had,” said Briere. “It’s been a bit of a roller coaster to start the season, but we’re hoping this game will get us on our way.”
The last second victory could be the springboard the Avalanche need to return to last season’s form. In the midst of a four-game road trip, Colorado faces off against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. The Leafs are coming off a 6-3 shellacking against the New York Rangers, so the team will need to be at its best to avoid the same fate. The Bruins visit Joe Louis Arena and the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.
Commentary by Jonathan Gardner