I have good news and bad news. The good news? The Colorado Avalanche have put together back-to-back second periods. The bad news? Their third period on Wednesday night erased all that good work.
Up 4-0 with 24 minutes left in the game, it looked like the Avalanche were going to cruise to their third straight win. Not so fast. The Arizona Coyotes scored five straight goals, including the overtime winner with just 20 seconds left in the extra period, to snatch the extra point from Colorado with a 5-4 victory. The Avalanche have been full of highs and lows this season, and on Wednesday night, you saw all of that in the 64:40 they played.
Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar each picked up two points, but were also on the ice for a lot of goals against. Alexandar Georgiev stopped just 22 of the 27 shots he faced, and after the overtime winner, looked unhappy with the quality of chances his team was giving up.
He’s got some work to do, but so does the rest of the team. That much is very apparent.
Due to NHL rules, the Avalanche had to travel to Arizona on the day of the game. For the majority of the first period, that sure looked obvious.
Colorado missed a bunch of their passes, gave the puck away too frequently, and just looked sloppy overall. Luckily for them, the Coyotes weren’t all that much better. While Arizona looked like they had their legs under them, their passing wasn’t quite there, which meant they couldn’t take advantage of a lot of the opportunities the Avalanche gave to them.
Arizona had the lead in shots for most of the first, but even they weren’t generating much in terms of dangerous chances. Eventually, Jason Zucker took a penalty (and the ref threatened him with another), and the Avalanche powerplay went to work.
After zipping the puck around for over a minute, the MacKinnon/Rantanen combination showed up. Nathan MacKinnon took a drop pass from Cale Makar, skated up the left wall, and hit Rantanen on the other side of the ice. The giant Finn blasted a one-timer past Vejmelka, giving Colorado the 1-0 lead. Just like the last time the Avalanche were in Arizona, the fans showed out, and it certainly sounded like a home game for the road team.
With the assist, MacKinnon’s point streak was extended to 19 games.
Georgiev made a nice save at the buzzer after the Malinski/Johnson pairing got caught running around, and Colorado took the lead into the intermission.
Apparently the cure to the second period woes of the Avalanche was the Arizona Coyotes.
For the second straight game, the Avalanche looked like the far better team in the middle session, and that came through on the scoresheet. Just over a minute into the period, Colorado extended their lead.
Devon Toews sent the puck down low, as the Avalanche were still changing players up front. Ross Colton was behind the goal line, and made an incredibly smart play, one touching the puck out front to a wide open Jonathan Drouin. His initial shot was stopped by Vejmelka, but he stuck with it, beating him on the rebound.
Six minutes later, right after killing off a Josh Manson penalty, the Avalanche made it a three goal lead. Out of the box, Manson and Logan O’Connor worked a give-and-go. When the puck came back to O’Connor, he outmuscled Matt Dumba, sending the defenseman to the ice. Rather than take the shot, O’Connor went around the net and went for the wrap around and beat Vejmelka.
A few minutes later, Cale Makar drew not one, but two penalties, giving the Avalanche an extended 5-on-3. For the first time all season, Colorado would take advantage, scoring their first 5-on-3 goal of the year. It didn’t look pretty at the start, but after re-entering the zone, Nathan MacKinnon switched spots with Makar at the top of the circle, and ripped a one-timer over Vejmelka’s shoulder.
Just like that, it was 4-0. Everything’s good, right?
With 3:29 left in the period, Lawson Crouse scored off broken defensive zone coverage from Colorado. Giving up one goal is fine. Letting it bleed into the third period is another thing…
Where to begin?
On one of the first shifts of the second, Ross Colton blocked a shot right off his knee. He struggled to get the bench, but did stay in the game. Not for long, though. He took just a few more shifts, then exited the game and did not return. His absence was clearly felt, and made even more obvious due to the fact that the Avalanche dressed Kurtis MacDermid, and once again, don’t trust him enough to use him.
Michael Kesselring turned into Bobby Orr for one shift, dancing around the entire offensive zone. He missed his initial shot, but the puck came back to him again, and he didn’t miss the second time, beating Georgiev up high. The four goal lead was suddenly down to two goals.
Four minutes later, a simple dump in by the Coyotes was recovered by Bowen Byram, but his reversal landed right on the stick of a Coyotes forward. After some time in the offensive zone, Jason Zucker eventually carried the puck around from the behind the net, and beat Georgiev on a wrap around. Probably not the best goal, given it went in along the ice and on the far side. Still, plenty of time for a team with a lot of winners to regain their composure, but when you’re down to just 10 forwards, it gets a little exhausting.
Colorado stabilized things a bit, and had chances to extend their lead. Miles Wood had a breakaway and a great look on a 2-on-1 on one shift, but couldn’t finish either chance. That gave the Coyotes one last opportunity to tie the game, and with the net empty, they did exactly that. Sean Durzi, through a screen, beat Georgiev up high, and the game was tied. The goal came just seconds after Cale Makar whiffed on his initial clearing attempt.
Neither team scored in the final 2:07, and the game went to overtime.
For the first part of overtime, the Avalanche controlled the play. The problem is that they did nothing with all of their puck possession, so it didn’t mean a whole lot. Lots of regrouping and drop passes, which did wear down the Coyotes defenders, but Colorado registered just two shots in overtime.
After about the two minute mark of overtime, it was turnover city for Colorado. Miles Wood tried a cross-ice pass that went behind Rantanen, and Devon Toews had to race back to stop a breakaway. The top players over-extended their shifts, and with a short bench in the third, fatigue really set in. Josh Manson, who the staff used over Bowen Byram in overtime, ultimately made the turnover that ended the game, but it never should have come to that.
Both Manson and MacKinnon were at the end of very long shifts, and Rantanen had control of the puck along the right boards. Both tired players were trying to get to the bench, but Rantanen sent a pass to Manson, who wasn’t ready for it. Instead, he turned it over, leading to a 2-on-1 for the Coyotes. Georgiev made a few great saves, but the rebound of one stop flew straight up into the air and landed right on the stick of Jack McBain, who tapped it in for the game-winner. The goal was reviewed, but it went off his stick, not his hand, so it counted.
An embarrassing defeat for the Avalanche, who gave up four goals in the final 23:29 of regulation to blow a lead. Their road trip now continues to St. Louis, where they will take on the Blues Friday night. That game starts at 6 PM MST.