Some nights, you can outscore your issues defensively.
This was not one of those nights for the Colorado Avalanche.
Sloppy play with the puck, and poor checking in the defensive zone did the Avalanche in, as they dropped a high-scoring affair to the New Jersey Devils by a score of 7-5. Down four goals in the second period, the Avalanche fought back to get the game close, but could find that tying goal.
The loss snaps the six game win streak for the Avalanche.
Nathan MacKinnon led the way offensively for the Avalanche with two goals. Mikko Rantanen, Valeri Nichushkin, and J.T. Compher also scored. Artturi Lehkonen chipped in with two assists.
Justus Annunen stopped 22 of the 28 shots he faced.
It was a team effort for the Devils offensively, as seven different players scored goals. Dawson Mercer led the way with a goal and three assists, and Tomas Tatar picked up three points for himself.
The Devils talked about not letting the Avalanche get off to a quick start before the game. Instead, they were the team that came out pushing the pace.
Just 1:07 into the game, the Devils beat Annunen cleanly. Lars Eller, on his first shift with the Avalanche, went to chip the puck behind the net, and didn’t get enough on it. The puck came in front to Palat, who beat Annunen blocker side to give the Devils the early one goal lead.
And they did not let up.
After an extended shift in the offensive zone, they found the back of the net again, just six minutes later. Taking advantage of multiple Avalanche turnovers, Bastian whacked at a loose puck in front and pushed it past Annunen. The Avalanche did challenge for goaltender interference, but it was deemed to be a good goal.
Soon after, the Devils scored yet again, capitalizing on a MacKinnon turnover. Dawson Mercer fed a wide open Nico Hischier in the high slot after digging the puck out of the corner. Hischier faked shot, then fed a wide open Tatar at the right circle, who deposited the puck into an empty net.
An Avalanche squad that had been starting games hot now found themselves down three goals less than twelve minutes in.
MacKinnon got one back late in the period, though. After some sustained pressure in the offensive zone, Lehkonen and Nichushkin dug the puck off the wall to maintain possession. Nichushkin fed MacKinnon high in the zone, and the star’s one-timer went off a defender and into the back of the net, putting the Avalanche on the board with just 13 seconds left in the first.
That momentum did not carry into the second period.
After another defensive zone turnover, this time by Toews, the Devils restored their three goal lead. Hamilton worked his way around Cogliano at the point and beat a screened Annunen to make it 4-1. A little under three minutes, Wood made it 5-1 on the powerplay, as he was left alone in the slot. Annunen was a little deep in his net and left a good chunk of the net open.
Things were looking ugly, but the Avalanche found some jump. A lot of jump, actually.
At 7:32 of the period, Rantanen got one back. Josh Manson sent a nice pass through a defenders feet, hitting Rantanen at the side of the goalie for the deflection into the net. And just 88 seconds later, MacKinnon got another one back. He found his way around Ryan Graves and snuck a quick shot through Vanecek’s legs, making it 5-3.
The Avalanche weren’t done just yet.
36 seconds later, Annunen made a big stop at one end. It led to Compher skating the puck all the way from the front of his net to the other side of the ice uncontested. He skated in and wired a shot blocker side. In just 2:04, the Avalanche had cut the lead down to one.
Unfortunately for the Avalanche, the Devils got the next one, capping off a wild second period.
Ryan Graves sent a puck under Annunen’s stick to the front of the net, where Mercer got his stick free from Sam Girard. He deposited the puck through Annunen’s legs, putting a stop to the Avalanche’s momentum and making the game 6-4.
The second period ended with six goals total goals on just 18 shots. Not a great period for either goaltender.
And the third period didn’t start much better.
86 seconds into the period, the Avalanche cut the lead back to one. Nichushkin whacked at a puck in front of the net, and it went through Vanecek’s legs. That goal was the end of Vanecek’s evening, as he was pulled for Akira Schmid. The Devils challenged the goal for offsides, but it was not overturned.
That was the end of the goal scoring frenzy, however. Things settled down for the rest of the game, and Schmid stopped all 12 shots he faced. Hischier added an empty net goal, and the Devils left Ball Arena with a 7-5 win.
The loss snapped the six game winning streak for the Avalanche, but they are still in a good spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
On Saturday, they’ll have a chance to make up ground on the division leaders, as they head to Dallas to take on the Stars. The game starts at 1:30 PM MST.