It doesn’t matter whether it’s November or April, you can’t give away points in the NHL. On Monday night, the Colorado Avalanche gave away two.
With a one goal lead heading into the final minute of play against the Predators, the Avalanche looked like a lock to leave with at least one point. After giving up two goals in the span of 15 seconds, they walked away with zero. An epic collapse for a team coming off an emotional win on Saturday night. That emotion wasn’t really there for most of Monday’s game, but they were still in a position to walk away with the win. That didn’t happen, and it’ll be a tough flight home after a 4-3 loss to Nashville.
Valeri Nichushkin, Andrew Cogliano, and Devon Toews scored the goals for Colorado. Cale Makar added three assists for the third straight game, and became just the fourth defenseman in NHL history to accomplish that feat. Unfortunately, it came in a losing effort.
Georgiev stopped just 26 of the 30 shots sent his way, but I’m not sure he’s to blame on this one. He made multiple big stops, but some sloppy defense in front of him made his life difficult.
Back in Nashville for the first time since being traded this summer, the Avalanche decided to start Ryan Johansen for the opening face-off. During the first TV timeout, he received an ovation from the fans for his eight seasons in town. A nice tribute for someone who was a big part of the only Predators team that got close to a Stanley Cup championship. The rest of the night was relatively quiet for the big center.
The Avalanche came out with some jump, outshooting the Predators significantly in the first ten minutes, but had nothing to show for it. A lackluster powerplay was the biggest downfall early, and the same can be said of their late powerplay as well.
Miles Wood, who has done a nice job of staying disciplined this season, took a penalty he’s managed to avoid, as he roughed up Cole Smith after the whistle 2/3 of the way through the period. His team would bail him out, though.
Cale Makar easily picked off a Gus Nyquist pass in the neutral zone, and immediately went to work. He sent a pass to Valeri Nichushkin, who fired a shot at the net. It looked like the puck hit the skates of the defenseman in front, and just sat there for a wide open Andrew Cogliano, who smacked it home for his third goal in three games. That goal gave the Avalanche five shorthanded tallies on the year, which is tied for the league lead.
It looked like Colorado was going to escape the period with the lead, but they collapsed quite a bit in the final five minutes. Alexandar Georgiev made some big saves with both teams down a man, but Nashville managed to solve him with just under 20 seconds remaining in the first.
With a delayed penalty coming for Colorado, Nashville was able to get Saros to the bench for Filip Forsberg. That made all the difference. Cody Glass hit a streaking Forsberg, who skated into the high slot untouched and wired a wrist shot under the glove of Georgiev, tying the game with just 18 seconds left in the period.
An ugly end to the period for Colorado, but they would somehow manage to top that later in the game.
That late goal gave Nashville some momentum to start the second, and they took advantage.
Ryan O’Reilly beat Nathan MacKinnon cleanly in the face-off circle, giving the Predators possession in the offensive zone. Their initial shot missed the net, but after recovering the puck, it came back to Jeremy Lauzon at the point, who sent a shot past a screened Georgiev to give the Predators the 2-1 lead. Both MacKinnon and O’Reilly were in front of Georgiev, and while neither touched it, both took away the eyes of the goaltender.
That goal seemed to wake Colorado up, as the rest of the period was easily the best stretch for the Avalanche. Five minutes later, Colorado would tie the game up, taking advantage of a Nashville defender not having a stick. After Saros made an initial save on Nichushkin, Makar corralled the puck in the corner, and danced his way all the way up to the top of the zone. He hit MacKinnon at the left circle, who recognized that someone didn’t have a stick. The center sent a cross-ice pass to a wide open Devon Toews, who one-timed a shot past Saros, who was deep in his net.
That goal tied the game up at two, and five minutes later, the Avalanche powerplay, which looked bad to start the game, kept it simple to take the lead.
This goal was almost a carbon copy of the same goal Valeri Nichushkin has scored multiple times over the last two weeks. Makar gets the puck up at center point, and just wrists it towards the net, looking for a Nichushkin deflection. It worked again, and Big Val scored his sixth goal in six games, giving the Avalanche the 3-2 lead, a lead they would take into the third.
Although Colorado has not been perfect this season, they have been great with the lead in the third period. They’ve made life difficult for their opponents, because rather than sit back, they keep pushing to extend their lead.
That was not the case in this game. Colorado had some chances early in the third, including a Johansen deflection and a Colton shot that trickled through Saros, but after that, they kind of sat back and let Nashville dictate things for the final ten minutes. That’s when they got themselves into some trouble.
Even with sitting back, they managed to hold the lead heading into the final minute of the game. At that point, the game completely fell apart.
Credit to Nashville, as they held the puck in the Avalanche zone for an extended period of time, keeping some extremely tired Colorado players on the ice for a long time. Bowen Byram’s last shift of the game ended at 2:30, and finished in disaster.
Georgiev was forced to make save after save, but the tired Avalanche players on the ice failed to clear the puck, giving Nashville multiple chances to tie the game up. The puck eventually came around to Forsberg at the left circle, who fed Colton Sissons in the slot. Sissons sent a spinning shot towards Georgiev with almost no resistance, and the rebound popped into the air. Forsberg kept going towards the net, and bunted the puck into the net with 37 seconds left, tying the game up at three, and sending the building into a frenzy.
That was just the beginning.
Okay, so you gave up a late goal. That happens. The game was still tied, and the Avalanche needed to make sure they secured at least a point.
Yeah, about that…
Off the ensuing face-off, the Predators cleared the puck to the neutral zone, and Makar had trouble corralling the bouncing puck. He followed the puck back into his own zone, and this is when it only got crazier.
It’s difficult to tell if Makar was trying to bounce the puck off the boards to himself, or reverse it to Jack Johnson, but either way, the puck exploded off the boards and ended up in front of the net. A wide open Cole Smith had his initial shot stopped by Georgiev, but Yakov Trenin smacked home the rebound, giving the Predators the lead with just 22 seconds left.
15 seconds. That’s how long it took for Colorado to lose not just one, but two crucial points in the standings. I have a hard time seeing this team miss the playoffs at the end of the year, but this certainly won’t help with seeding come April.
With the 4-3 loss, the Avalanche fall to 11-6 on the season. A respectable record, but considering they’ve blown a few games in the final minute this year, it could be better. They now head home to face the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, who are the second best team in the West right now. That game starts at 8 PM MST.