DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings played nice for a change.
Usually one of the NHL's most spirited rivalries, the two playoff-bound teams finished the regular season Sunday with the league's first penalty-free game in 20 years.
"The referees had an early flight," Avalanche forward Dave Reid joked after Colorado's 3-2 victory. "There wasn't a lot of big hits. There wasn't a lot of contact. Everybody knew what's at stake later in the week and everybody wants to have a good game."
Even with the playoffs looming, it's hard to believe the Red Wings and Avalanche were capable of the first penalty-free game since the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres avoided the penalty box in a 2-2 tie on Feb. 17, 1980.
Over the past five seasons, the Colorado-Detroit series has featured full-scale brawls highlighted by goalies fighting at mid-ice, and a bloody cross-check that prompted Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman to confront Colorado's Claude Lemieux in the parking lot.
"Never would have thought that it would be us two teams," Detroit's Brendan Shanahan said.
"I think there could have been some penalties in the third period, but once the referees had an opportunity to call a no-penalty game against Detroit and Colorado, I'm sure they're thinking it's going to look real good on the resume."
Milan Hejduk took advantage of the wide-open style of play as he scored his 36th goal of the season for the Avalanche, who finished with an eight-game winning streak.
Patrick Roy added 23 saves for his 444th career victory, three short of Terry Sawchuk's NHL record.
"We will go into the playoffs very confident," Roy said. "I think it should be a battle for us, and we know we will have to play the same way we have played at the end of the year."
The third-seeded Avalanche will open the playoffs against the sixth-seeded Phoenix on Wednesday or Thursday, while fourth-seeded Detroit will play the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Kings.
"I think they are the second-highest scoring team, so you have to be ready," Detroit goalie Chris Osgood said as he scouted the Kings. "They are a good team. They won over 40 games this year. We have to be ready to go right from the start."
Playing it safe in advance of the playoffs, Bowman rested banged-up regulars Chris Chelios (face lacerations), Steve Yzerman (knee), Slava Kozlov (concussion). Larry Murphy and Igor Larionov, both 39 years old, also were given the day off. All but Chelios are expected back for the playoffs.
Colorado played without star forward Peter Forsberg, who has a separated right shoulder and is not expected to be ready for the opener against Phoenix.
Alex Tanguay and Serge Aubin, a pair of rookies, provided some scoring punch in Forsberg's absence. They each had a goal as the Avalanche controlled the game from the start.
Colorado outshot Detroit 15-2 over the game's first 15 minutes and led 2-0 on goals by Hejduk and Aubin. Shanahan beat Roy in the opening minutes of the second period, but the game held little drama the rest of the way.
"Both teams want to win, but we lost Peter in a game that meant nothing to us in the standings. I think both teams were aware of that," Reid said. "The fans will see lots of rock 'em sock 'em hockey in the next two months. They don't have to get it in game 82 of the regular season."
Tanguay made it 3-1 early in the third, and Roy gave up a goal to Stacy Roest with three seconds left.
Behind Roy and an improved defense, the Avalanche set a franchise record by allowing 201 goals this season. The previous best was 205 goals surrendered in each of the previous three years.
Colorado gave up just 13 goals in the final eight games.
"The last few weeks have been good," Hejduk said. "We won our last eight games, which left us feeling really good. You want to be on a roll at playoff time."
© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us