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Trip Of Nightmares: Mistakes Cost Avalanche, Fall 6-3 To Lightning



Avalanche Colton

Six games in 12 days, and just three points to show for it for the Colorado Avalanche. Some road trips bring teams together, but this road trip might cost the Avalanche the Central Division title.

The Avalanche held the lead for just 2:30 on Thursday night, giving up quick goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning multiple times after going ahead, and dropped their fifth game of the six game road trip by a score of 6-3. Mistakes in their own end, particularly from some of their top players, burned the Avalanche, and they’ll head home having picked up just three of a possible 12 points on the road. Not the way you want after the All-Star break.

Bowen Byram scored twice for Colorado, while Artturi Lehkonen picked up the other goal. Justus Annunen played pretty well in net, but was hung out to dry at times. He stopped 33 of the 37 shots sent his way by Tampa Bay.

First Period

The first period featured multiple momentum shifts. Tampa Bay came out with more energy, holding the Avalanche to no shots to start the game, while keeping playing in the Avalanche end. Justus Annunen was strong, gloving down a few difficult shots sent his way. Tampa’s incredible powerplay got an early opportunity, but failed to convert, mostly because they couldn’t hit the net.

Colorado got the next opportunity on the powerplay, a powerplay that looked like it was going to get nullified due to a high-sticking penalty on MacKinnon. However, the refs reviewed the call, and determined that MacKinnon’s stick was lifted into Glendening’s face, so no penalty was called. Colorado still couldn’t take advantage, but got on the board first soon after.

Bowen Byram, who showed signs of life last game, jumped into the rush at the 15 minute mark. He got away with a penalty in the neutral zone, as he grabbed Hagel’s jersey to slingshot himself ahead. It went uncalled, and he cut right to the net. Mikko Rantanen hit him with a perfect pass, and Byram’s deflection made it 1-0.

It looked like Colorado had all the momentum, but a goofy bounce off the glass changed that. Nikita Kucherov went to dump the puck into the zone, but his dump-in hit a stanchion on the glass and deflected right to the slot. Sam Girard went to clear it, but his clearing attempt hit Brayden Point and bounced into the Avalanche net, tying the game up at one.

Bad luck for the Avalanche, but the next goal was earned by Tampa Bay.

Hagel and Cirelli just outworked the Avalanche defenders to maintain possession of the puck a minute after Point’s game-tying goal, and Colorado’s top pair and number one center got caught watching. After a turnover, Hagel retrieved the puck and fed a wide open Kucherov at the side of the net, who gave the Lightning the 2-1 lead heading into the intermission.

Second Period

There wasn’t as much action in period two, as the Avalanche seemed more prepared for the stretch passes that the Lightning love. They held Tampa to just 11 shot attempts after giving them double that in period one.

Colorado got a scare early in the period, as a cross-ice pass from Jonathan Drouin was deflected into Nathan MacKinnon’s face, resulting in a lot of blood and a potentially broken nose. MacKinnon went to the locker room, but did return to play a few minutes later.

At the 15 minute mark, the Avalanche picked up the tying goal thanks to a ref with great positioning. Ross Colton’s rush to the net was stopped by Vasilevksy, and everyone on the ice kind of stopped playing. A ref who lost sight of the puck could have easily blown the whistle, but the ref was in position behind the net, and recognized that the puck never was covered. Byram rushed to the puck, tucked it back in front and into the net, tying the game at two.

Annunen was solid in net for the Avalanche at the other end, stopping all eight shots sent his way, keeping the game tied heading into the third.

Third Period

Early in the third, Kucherov, potentially frustrated from having Devon Toews track him all night, blatantly interfered with Toews, sending the Avalanche to the powerplay. The actual man advantage wasn’t exactly pretty, as Glendening had a glorious chance shorthanded for the Lightning, but the top unit stuck with it and stayed on the ice for the entirety of the two minutes.

And they needed all of it.

Right as Kucherov was about to come out of the box, Nathan MacKinnon threw the puck towards the net, and Artturi Lehkonen deflected it past Vasilevsky, giving the Avalanche the lead.

That lead lasted all of 20 seconds.

On the very next shift, Steven Stamkos snuck behind everyone on the Avalanche, cherry picking in the neutral zone. Kucherov hit him with a pass, and Stamkos went in and scored on a ridiculous move, tying the game up at three. The type of mistake you simply can’t make, especially after you’ve just taken the lead.

The game-winning goal might have been even uglier.

After Byram missed an easy outlet pass to Drouin, resulting in an icing, the Lightning took the lead. Somehow, the leading scorer in the NHL was left all alone in the offensive zone for multiple seconds. Point hit Kucherov at the side of the net, who had plenty of time to corral the puck in his skates and send it up high, giving the Lightning the 4-3 lead.

Colorado pushed a little bit, but the closest they got to tying the game was Zach Parise hitting the crossbar off a turnover by the Lightning. With the net empty, the Avalanche generated very few scoring chances, despite the Lightning giving them plenty of chances to do so after multiple icings. Cirelli eventually ended the game with an empty netter, and Perbix added one for good measure, sending Colorado home with a 6-3 loss.

Just an ugly end to an ugly road trip for the Avalanche, who will fall two points back of Dallas for the Central Division lead. The Stars have three games in hand, while Winnipeg, who is just one point behind Colorado, have four games in hand. The Avalanche will need to regroup at home on Sunday when they host the Arizona Coyotes. That game starts at 4 PM MST.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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