The dream of a perfect season came to an end for the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.
Colorado came out slow, and never really found their game, falling 4-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The home team came into the night with three straight losses, but you wouldn’t have known it from watching the game. They looked like the crisper team, and played well within their structure, not giving the Avalanche very many high-end chances at even strength. And when Colorado did get a powerplay, they struggled to create anything, going 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
Colorado was sloppy with the puck all night, making several unforced errors. From the initial drop of the puck, it was clear it just wasn’t their night.
Tristan Jarry stopped all 31 shots he faced, although he wasn’t really tested until the Penguins had a three goal lead. Reilly Smith scored two for Pittsburgh, with Lars Eller (Yes, that Lars Eller) and Sidney Crosby also chipping in with goals.
Alexandar Georgiev stopped just 19 of the 23 shots he faced.
The opening shift of the game from the Avalanche was probably their best of the period.
That says all you really need to know.
In the opening period, Pittsburgh clogged up the neutral zone and gave Colorado nothing to work with. On the flip side, the Avalanche made life far more difficult for themselves than they needed to. They consistently made poor decisions with the puck, and when they did have opportunities to shoot…they didn’t. Valeri Nichushkin was probably their best player, but even he passed up a shot on a 2-on-1 when he tried to force a pass to Lehkonen.
Nathan MacKinnon took an early penalty, which Colorado killed it off, but just seconds after MacKinnon exited the box, the Penguins took the lead. Sam Girard went down to block the passing lane, but instead knocked it to a wide open Reilly Smith, who fired the first shot of the game over Georgiev’s glove.
The sloppiness continued, and Pittsburgh took a two-goal lead late in the period. Bryan Rust outworked multiple Avalanche players along the wall, springing Evgeni Malkin and Smith on a 2-on-1. Malkin froze Toews, getting him to bite on a shot, and passed it over to a wide open Smith for his second goal of the game.
Colorado went into the intermission down two goals after arguably their worst period of the season. It didn’t get much better in the second…
The same mistakes with the puck that impacted Colorado in the first were evident in the second, and a lot of them came from their top players. Cale Makar, MacKinnon, and Sam Girard were particularly poor, turning it over far too many times, but they were not alone.
Pittsburgh would extend their lead to three after a turnover at the offensive blueline by Colorado. It looked like the Avalanche would escape from the rush scot-free, but instead of clearing the puck to the corner, Josh Manson tried to corral it instead. That allowed Radim Zohorna to poke it away from Manson, and it landed directly on the stick of Lars Eller, who was all alone in front of the net. Eller tapped it into a wide open net, making the game 3-0.
Colorado did get some more chances in the second, and most of them came off the stick of Jonathan Drouin. He failed to raise the puck on a chance in front of the net on one attempt, and on a late powerplay, Tristan Jarry robbed him with his glove, keeping the Avalanche off the scoresheet.
A late four minute powerplay generated very little momentum for the Avalanche, and Pittsburgh needed just 20 minutes to end their three game losing streak.
Colorado came out with a little more energy in the third period, but their execution was still off.
The Avalanche continued to get powerplay opportunities, and their first unit was generally very poor. The second unit actually generated far better chances, with Byram having the best look of them all.
Jonathan Drouin sent a cross-ice pass to Byram at the left circle, and the young defenseman’s one-time shot was robbed by Jarry. After that, Colorado didn’t have many more scoring chances, while the Penguins were gifted another goal.
Nathan MacKinnon turned the puck over exiting the zone, and Sidney Crosby made him pay for it about three seconds later, firing a wrist shot past Alexandar Georgiev.
At the next TV timeout, Bednar removed Georgiev from the game, giving Ivan Prosvetov his first game action of the year, and he stopped the five shots he faced. Expect Bednar to go back to Georgiev on Sunday.
The buzzer sounded, and Colorado’s road winning streak of 15 games came to an end. A tremendous run, but it ended with a whimper, as the Avalanche didn’t look like themselves all night long.
Colorado will get a few days off before heading to Buffalo on Sunday to take on the Sabres. That game starts at 11 AM MST.