Habs Game Report: Niemi's strong game squandered in loss to Avalanche
DENVER — Backup goaltender Antti Niemi turned in a strong performance but Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov was a tad better as the Avalanche defeated the Canadiens 2-0 Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center. It was a familiar story as the Canadiens outshot the home team but failed to put a puck behind Varlamov, who continued his mastery over the Canadiens. He improved his career record against Montreal to 6-0-1. While the Canadiens are playing out the string with no chance of making the playoffs, it was an important win for the Avalanche who moved two points back of the Minnesota Wild in the fight for the final wild-card spot in the Western Confrrence.
Soderberg breaks the ice: Carl Soderberg gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead when he scored at 14:55 of the second period. Soderberg picked up the puck behind the net and beat Niemi with a wraparound. It was his 11th goal of the season. Quebecers Gabriel Bourque and A.J. Greer collected assists on the goal. The Canadiens outshot the Avalanche 17-13 in the period but they failed to take advantage of two power plays. The defence was put to the test when the Avalanche kept the puck in the Montreal zone for more than two minutes and the Canadiens were unable to make a change.
Adding some insurance: The Avalanche ended any hope of a Montreal comeback when Alexander Kerfoot scored an unassisted goal at 16:58 of the third period.
Nothing doing: Neither team was able to score in the first period which saw the Canadiens outshoot the Avalanche 9-7 thanks to a flurry of shots in the final minute. Montreal went more than seven minutes before Charles Hudon managed the Canadiens’ first shot on goal. Colin Wilson had a good chance for Colorado on a 2-on-1 break early in the period but he hit a post. Nail Yakupov also hit a post late in the period.
Power play stalls: Reports of an improved Montreal power play appear to have been exaggerated. The Canadiens went 0-for-4 with the extra man and managed six shots on goal. The Canadiens were presented with an opportunity to tie the game in the third period when Mikko Rantanen was sent off for holding and Soderberg shot the puck into the stands for s delay of game penalty. That gave the Canadiens a 5-on-3 advantage for 40 seconds but they managed only one shot on goal. The Avalanche power play went 0-for-2.