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Colorado Avalanche

Avalanche Fail in Opportunity to Take First Place, Fall 5-2 to Penguins




Wednesday night’s contest was a big game for both the Colorado Avalanche and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Avalanche had a chance to move into first place in their division, and the Penguins were fighting to the get back into a playoff spot.

In the end, one team looked more desperate than the other.

And the more desperate team was not the Avalanche.

“There’s advantages to finishing first. And that’s what we’re trying to track down. It’s an opportunity for us tonight. We didn’t get it done,” Jared Bednar said after the game.

The Penguins threw 44 shots at Alexandar Georgiev, including 36 in the final two periods, on their way to a 5-2 victory. The loss snapped a six game winning streak for the Avalanche. They’ll now have to wait and see if they will get another shot at first place in the Central Division, as both Dallas and Minnesota play on Thursday before the next Avalanche game.

The Avalanche do have a game in hand on both of those teams, but that game only matters if you take advantage of it.

First Period

The first period came and went without any goals, and there were only a few chances.  It was also, easily, the best period of the night for Colorado. Their best looks came from Nathan MacKinnon, who came out flying. The superstar had a good chance on an early 2-on-1 but was unable to beat Tristan Jarry.

Late in the period, he danced away from his good friend, Sidney Crosby, and cut to the high slot. He wired a powerful wrist shot past Jarry, and off the crossbar. The rebound bounced out to Rantanen, who tried to hit it out of mid-air into the net, but Jarry dove back to stop it.

At the other end, Alexandar Georgiev was solid, but didn’t have to do a whole lot. He stopped all nine shots that came his way. The best player on the ice for either team was Sam Girard, who was active in the offensive zone, and tremendous in his own end.

Second Period

Things went downhill for Girard pretty quickly in the second. Sidney Crosby, as he has done to many defensemen over the course of his career, made him look foolish, and got the scoring started for his team.

Crosby took a pass in the neutral zone, and caught Girard leaning before deking to his backhand. He then went in on Georgiev and labeled a perfect backhand shot top shelf to give the Penguins the early lead. The 35 year old superstar still has the goods.

The Penguins added to that lead three minutes later on a two-man advantage, after a bad cross-checking penalty by Kurtis MacDermid, and a reaching penalty from veteran Andrew Cogliano. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck towards the net, and Jake Guentzel looked to get a piece of the original shot. The rebound bounced in the air, and Guentzel backhanded the puck out of mid-air past Georgiev. Four minutes into the second period, the Penguins had a two goal lead.

The Avalanche got one back 11:35 into the period, after some nice forecheck work by Alex Newhook. J.T. Compher dumped the puck behind the Penguins net, and Kris Letang had plenty of time to make a play. He tried to spin away from Newhook, but the young forward took him off the puck with a hit. Valeri Nichushkin picked up the loose puck, and sent it towards the front of the net. A crashing Compher sent the puck over Jarry’s glove, cutting the Penguins lead to one.

But the momentum was short-lived, as the Penguins restored their two goal lead just a few minutes later on another powerplay. The Avalanche penalty killers left Jeff Carter all alone in front of the net, and he was able to send a one-timer past Georgiev to make it 3-1.

The Avalanche got a late powerplay, and could have easily gotten a two-man advantage, but a high-stick from Bryan Rust on Bowen Byram was not called. After two periods, the Penguins were leading 3-1.

Third Period

The Penguins came out in the third period with the energy, outshooting the Avalanche 10-3 early until they took a penalty, giving the Avalanche a chance.

And on that powerplay, the Avalanche cut the Penguins lead to one. Devon Toews took a one-timer from the right circle at a tough angle, and beat Jarry low. The goal kept the streak alive for the Avalanche powerplay, as it marked the ninth straight game they found the back of the net. That’s tied for the second longest streak since the team relocated to Denver.

That would be as close as the Avalanche would get, though.

Just a little over two minutes after Toews scored, Jeff Carter restored the Penguins two goal lead. Carter beat Lars Eller out of the corner and to the front of the net, tipping in Brian Dumoulin’s pass past a sliding Georgiev.

Bryan Rust sealed the game with an empty net goal late, giving the Penguins the 5-2 win. Tristan Jarry attempted to score on the empty net twice, but was unsuccessful both times.

The loss snaps the six game winning streak for the Avalanche, and keeps them from taking the lead in the Central Division. What the Avalanche have in their favor is an easy schedule. They now will take on three straight bottom-feeders in the Western Conference, starting with back to back games against the Arizona Coyotes. The first of those games will take place Friday night at Ball Arena at 7 PM MST.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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