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Colorado Avalanche

Avalanche Outworked by Wild in 4-2 Loss, Fall Behind in Race For First in Central




Wednesday night was a big opportunity for the Colorado Avalanche to move into first place in the Central Division.

Unfortunately, they failed to seize the opportunity.

The Wild came into Ball Arena and outworked the Avalanche, winning battles and taking advantage of mistakes by the home team, on their way to a 4-2 victory. After the game, head coach Jared Bednar was not happy with the effort up and down his lineup, mentioning that the team had passengers for the “first period-plus.”

With the loss, the Wild now move three points ahead of the Avalanche, extending their lead in the Central Division. The Avalanche still hold a game in hand, but now sit in third place in the Central because of tiebreakers. It’s not impossible for them to win the Central Division now, but they no longer control their own destiny if they want to get there.

First Period

Even with the very late start, the crowd was buzzing at puck drop. The sellout crowd was fired up for the big game. Unfortunately for the home crowd, the Wild got on the board first, thanks to a mistake from the Avalanche goaltender.

Just 3:24 into the game, a harmless dump-in by the Wild turned into the first goal of the game. Alexandar Georgiev had a lane on his forehand, but decided to backhand it blindly behind him. The only player there was Marcus Johansson, who sent a pass out to the slot. It missed everyone, but went to Dumba at the point, who sent it down low to Eriksson-Ek. The big Swede sent a blind backhand pass through his legs to Johansson, who beat Georgiev on the short-side, making it 1-0.

Penalties ruled the day for the next seven minutes, with both teams getting called twice, some of which were pretty questionable. Bowen Byram, in particular, was very unhappy with the call made on him, but being in the penalty box paid off for him.

At 10:43 of the period, Georgiev made a big glove save on a shot from the slot. Both Jack Johnson and J.T. Compher seemed to combine to send the puck to center ice, where Byram picked up the puck for a rare breakaway. He skated in and beat Gustavsson low-blocker, tying the game at one, and sending the crowd into a frenzy. It was as loud as Ball Arena has been this season after a goal.

The Wild got one back later in the period, though, giving them the lead going into the second intermission. A battle in front of the net was won by Sam Steel, as he outmuscled Sam Girard for the puck. Steel sent a quick backhand over Georgiev’s glove, and the Wild took a 2-1 lead into the second period.

Second Period

The second period was relatively even, with the Wild starting out hot, but the fourth line for the Avalanche turned the momentum their way.

The biggest swing of the period came halfway through it, when the Avalanche got a powerplay and a chance to tie the game. The powerplay went about as poorly as you could possibly imagine.

MacKinnon went to fire the puck at the net, and Brodin blocked it, sending a bouncing puck to the point. Cale Makar made a poor read to swing at the puck, and completely missed, giving Gaudreau a clean breakaway. The Wild forward came in and beat Georgiev on the glove side, giving the Wild a 3-1 lead. The rest of the powerplay was a jumbled mess of poor zone entries and missed passes for the Avalanche.

Late in the period, the Avalanche had chances to cut the lead to one, but Gustavsson came up big, particularly on a Sam Girard breakaway. Those big saves allowed the Wild to carry that two goal lead into the intermission.

Third Period

To the credit of the Avalanche, they came out firing in the third period. They out-attempted the Wild 24-3 at even strength while pushing to tie the game up. While they kept pushing, Gustavsson did his best to hold them down, stopping most of everything thrown his way.

With under seven minutes remaining in the game, Lars Eller got the Avalanche within one. A nice passing play entering the zone ended up on the stick of Devon Toews. He corralled a pass on his backhand, moved it to his forehand, and hit Eller in front for a tip-in goal, bringing the Avalanche within one.

That’s as close as the Avalanche would get, though. An apparent too many men on the ice penalty was taken back because the refs determined it to be inadvertent. A little confusing, but that’s the explanation that was given to Bednar.

Rantanen hit a post late, but the Avalanche were not able to tie it up, even with a late powerplay.  Gaudreau added another shorthanded goal, this time with an empty net, to close out the game for the Wild.

There is no time for the Avalanche to sit around and mope, though, as the Dallas Stars come to Ball Arena on Saturday night. With the loss, the Avalanche now move behind the Stars due to tiebreakers, making the game Saturday pretty important. It starts 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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