The Colorado Avalanche dropped their first home game of the year on Thursday night, but that might not be their biggest loss of the evening.
Artturi Lehkonen, one of the more consistent forwards on the team, left the game late in the second period after a scary fall into the boards. He did not return to the game, and was sent to a local hospital as a precaution. Jared Bednar did not have an update on him after the loss, but the Avalanche let us know that he is alert, responsive, and has full movement.
As for the game, it was low event, with both teams combining for just 48 shots on goal, but a late mistake by Colorado proved costly. Seattle scored with just over 30 seconds left, giving the Avalanche their first home loss of the season.
Nathan MacKinnon led the way with a goal and two assists, and seemed to generate all the big opportunities for the home team. Ivan Prosvetov took the loss, stopping just 18 of the 22 shots he faced.
Coming off a big victory on Tuesday, the Avalanche did come out with some energy. Bednar started his third line, an indication that he really loves the energy they’re bringing. They created a good chance off the rush for Miles Wood, but his shot went directly into the stomach of Philipp Grubauer.
During the opening 10 minutes of the game, the Avalanche did get some looks, with the best coming off the stick of Mikko Rantanen. He found himself open at the right circle, but his shot was blocked at the last second by a Kraken defenseman.
That was probably the last chance Colorado created in the first, because from the halfway point of the period on, it was all Kraken.
Ivan Prosvetov made some big stops early, including a breakaway off the stick of Devin Shore, but the Kraken solved him late.
After an extended shift in the defensive zone, Cale Makar floated the puck out to the neutral zone, and all the Avalanche skaters changed. The Kraken quickly transitioned the puck up the ice, and Tye Kartye entered the zone with a lot of space. He dropped it off to Jaden Schwartz, who had plenty of time to pick his spot, beating a screened Prosvetov on the blocker side with just over a minute left in the period, and giving the Kraken the lead heading into the intermission.
If Avalanche fans still have nightmares of Oliver Bjorkstrand after Game Seven last April, Thursday night didn’t help them.
Early in the second period, Bjorkstrand found himself open in the slot after another tough change by Colorado, and wired it past Prosvetov’s blocker, making it 2-0.
That goal briefly woke the Avalanche up, as on the next shift, Artturi Lehkonen sprung Nathan MacKinnon and Bowen Byram on a 2-on-1. MacKinnon’s pass got through to Byram, but he bobbled it a little bit, giving Grubauer time to get over. That didn’t matter, because Byram labeled a perfect shot into the corner of the net, cutting the lead to 2-1.
You’d think that goal would have woken up Colorado, but it didn’t. Their passes were a little off, and everything was really sloppy for a long stretch. The Kraken got the next goal on the powerplay, as Matty Beniers beat Prosvetov clean for his first of the year, restoring their two goal lead.
Off the ensuing face-off, the Avalanche got a real scare. Lehkonen went to retrieve the puck on the forecheck, but took a fall face-first into the boards. He stayed on the ice for a little bit, and was taken to the locker room with some blood coming from his nose. He was later taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Fans in the crowd weren’t happy, but it seemed more unfortunate than dirty. After the game, that was Bednar’s impression as well.
Soon after, the Avalanche did get their first powerplay of the game, but the less said about that, the better. The Kraken got all the scoring chances, and Colorado struggled to even enter the offensive zone.
Oddly enough, Colorado got some life after the ugly powerplay, led by Nathan MacKinnon. The superstar was left all alone with under five minutes left, a huge mistake by the Kraken blueline. He took a Makar pass and fired it right past Grubauer, making the game 3-2.
The Avalanche were given another powerplay late in the period, but not much came of it, and the score remained the same heading into the third.
Down a goal, and a skater, the Avalanche came out strong in the third period, but not a whole of shots were getting through to the net. That’s typical against the Kraken, who clog up the middle of the ice and protect their goaltenders.
With just under eight minutes in the game, Colorado did manage to tie the game. To the surprise of no one, it was the top line who tied things up. The big guns controlled the puck in the offensive zone for a while, and eventually, MacKinnon found a wide open Devon Toews at the point. The seas had parted, and he had a clear shooting lane. Valeri Nichushkin got to the front of the net, and tipped the Toews shot past Grubauer.
With the game tied up, things got heated again. Vince Dunn threw a hit from behind on Andrew Cogliano along the boards, which went uncalled, and Byram did not like it. He went after Dunn, but their tussle didn’t last very long. Byram was given an extra two minutes, which Jared Bednar was not happy with, but Colorado was able to kill it off.
The Avalanche got a powerplay soon after, but nothing came from it. The game seemed destined for overtime.
Not so fast.
A bad pass by Ross Colton in the offensive zone sent the Kraken the other way with under a minute left. Sam Girard did a great job to break up the odd-man rush, but the Kraken maintained possession. The puck eventually came behind the net, and both Byram and Colton attacked Bjorkstrand, leaving Tolvanen wide open in front. Tolvanen’s shot went wide, but Bjorkstrand found himself (and the puck) at the side of the net for an easy goal with 32 seconds left.
Colorado couldn’t tie it up with the net empty, and the Avalanche were sent home with their first home loss of the year. A tough pill to swallow after they seemed destined to walk away with at least a point.
Their home stand will continue on Saturday night, when the Blues come back to town. That game starts at 7 PM MST.