Some teams are really struggling coming out of the long break, and the Colorado Avalanche are one of them.
No excuses though, because every team is trying to find their groove again. The Avalanche will have to keep searching.
On Thursday night, the Avalanche spotted the Hurricanes three early goals, and spent the rest of the night chasing. Not an ideal situation against a very good Carolina team. It wasn’t like Colorado was getting caved in, either. Carolina registered just five shots on goal in the first period, but their first two attempts got past Alexandar Georgiev, who looked particularly shaky on the first shot. Zach Parise and Sam Girard added late goals in the first, but the Avalanche weren’t able to complete the comeback, falling 5-2 to the Hurricanes.
Georgiev finished the evening with 23 saves on 27 shots. For the second straight game, Nathan MacKinnon was held off the scoresheet. The Avalanche have not gotten an even strength goal from a center other than MacKinnon since the calendar flipped to 2024.
Disastrous. That’s the only word to describe the start to this game.
Not because the Avalanche were playing all that poorly. They actually managed to limit the Hurricanes, who typically shoot from everywhere, to just five shots on goal in the first.
The problem is that three of those shots got behind Alexandar Georgiev.
The first one was particularly egregious. Martin Necas entered the zone 1:52 into the game, and put a relatively harmless wrister on net. Georgiev stopped it with his blocker, but didn’t direct it where he wanted to. It bounced off his glove, and trickled behind him, giving the Hurricanes an early 1-0 lead.
Carolina’s next shot was a heck of a lot more dangerous. Devon Toews was whistled for a penalty in the offensive zone, but the Avalanche never touched the puck. Carolina maintained possession for quite a while, and while in the offensive zone, made a nice play to set up Necas all alone in the slot. He one-timed a rocket past Georgiev’s glove, and on their second shot of the game, the Hurricanes made it 2-0.
Fear not, as Georgiev did make a save on the next shot at the 16:50 mark of the period. The problem? The rebound bounced right in front of the net. Teravainen fed Necas at the side of the net, who deposited home his third goal of the period, giving him a natural hat trick. Both of those opportunities were created by a few Cale Makar turnovers on the breakout.
A disastrous start for Colorado, coming off two straight losses after the break, but there was a glimmer of hope to end the period.
With both teams skating 4-on-4, Sam Girard carried the puck up the ice, entered the zone, and fed Logan O’Connor. The former DU alum sent a pass across to Zach Parise, who whacked home his first goal in a Colorado uniform, cutting the lead to two. A massive goal, and what followed was even more bizarre.
On the ensuing face-off, Andrew Cogliano won the puck back to Girard. The defenseman hit center ice and floated a knucklepuck towards Kochetkov, who seemed to track the puck just fine. He just sort of…missed it. It bounced off the cross-bar and in, and in a span of just five seconds, the Avalanche had cut the lead to 3-2.
That’s momentum you can carry over into the second period, right?
Carolina did try to give the Avalanche a chance to get back into this game. They spent plenty of time in the box, but the problem was that on Colorado’s first three powerplays, they took penalties of their own to negate the man advantage. Not to mention the Colorado powerplay looked completely out of sorts, as it has since returning from the All-Star break.
After Jonathan Drouin took his second penalty of the evening, Carolina took advantage, extending their lead to two again.
Teravainen made a great play down low, sending a perfect backhand pass into the slot to Michael Bunting, who seemed to annoy the Avalanche all night long. Bunting one-timed the puck far side past Georgiev, and it was 4-2 Carolina, despite the home team only having registered 10 shots on goal up to that point.
Colorado’s best chances came off the stick of Nathan MacKinnon. The superstar was robbed by Raanta with his right leg early in the second, and MacKinnon hit the crossbar late in the period. Nothing was going for Colorado, and they entered the third down by two.
Carolina re-inserted Kochetkov into the net in the third period, as Raanta appeared to be in discomfort for most of the second. Kochetkov was up to the task as well. Down a few goals, the Avalanche did push the pace a little bit more, spending more time in the Hurricanes end, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
The powerplay, which was red-hot going into the break, continued to let them down. Two more opportunities in the third period went to waste. MacKinnon had the best look off a pass from Drouin, but it didn’t quite sit down for him, and he wasn’t able to get much on it. Ross Colton, who probably had more looks than anyone on the night, missed the net from the slot after making some nice moves on a zone entry.
Colorado pulled the goalie late, but nothing was working for them. Seth Jarvis was awarded an empty net goal after Rantanen whacked him good on a breakaway, giving the Hurricanes the 5-2 win.