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Colorado Avalanche

Annunen Shines, Road Issues Continue For Avalanche In 2-1 Loss




Every team wants home ice advantage in the playoffs, but based on how the Colorado Avalanche have performed on the road this season, they might need it.

On Thursday night, the Avalanche blew a lead in the third period in Detroit on their way to another road loss, this time to the Red Wings. The game was eerily reminiscent of their loss to the Rangers a few weeks back, where they played well through two periods but sat back in the third. It’s an even more unfortunate loss when you consider the Avalanche wasted a strong performance from Justus Annunen, who stopped 28 of 30 shots on the night, including a highlight reel save with just seconds remaining in regulation to guarantee his team a point.

Luckily for the Avalanche, the Dallas Stars fell to the lowly Ottawa Senators in regulation, so they actually gained ground in the race for the Central Division title.

Nathan MacKinnon was the lone goal scorer for Colorado.

First Period

Perhaps the game on Tuesday night spoiled everyone, but the pace between the Avalanche and Red Wings in period one felt like night and day to what we witnessed two days prior.

For a team on the road in desperate need of a road win, maybe not the worst thing.

Colorado played really well inside of Justus Annunen, making his fourth start of the season, limiting the Red Wings to just five shots on net. Detroit’s best opportunity came on an odd-man rush, but Debrincat rang his shot off the post, so the game stayed tied.

At the other end, Alex Lyon was forced to make 11 stops, with maybe his best one coming early in the game, as Jonathan Drouin danced through the entire Detroit team for a mini-break.

Neither team was able to find the back of the net, so the game stayed scoreless heading into the second.

Second Period

The pace picked up a bit more in period two, but Colorado continued to play solid hockey in front of Annunen, limiting chances from high-danger areas.

Colorado was the first team to break through, and it came after around two minutes of non-stop pressure. It all started with the “Roaring 20’s” line, reunited with Logan O’Connor back in the lineup. They cycled the Red Wings into submission in the offensive zone, but couldn’t find the back of the net, as Detroit got their bodies in front of quite a few scoring chances. With the long change, the Red Wings couldn’t get their tired group off the ice, while the top line for the Avalanche got out there. Mikko Rantanen eventually hit a streaking MacKinnon in the slot, who roofed it over Alex Lyon to give Colorado the 1-0 lead.

There really wasn’t much to say about the rest of the period, but that’s because the Avalanche were playing smart, disciplined hockey.

Third Period

It was clear from the start of the third that the Avalanche had no intention of looking to extend their lead. They sat back, didn’t take many chances offensively, and failed to capitalize on their only powerplay of the period.

With Jonathan Drouin in the box, the Red Wings were able to tie things up. Dylan Larkin was left alone in the slot for a half-second too long, and had enough time to roof the puck over Annunen’s shoulder, a near identical goal to the one MacKinnon scored in the second period. With the game tied up, you’d think the Avalanche would push the pace a little bit more, but that didn’t happen.

O’Connor was called for a penalty with a minute left in the period, but the replays showed there wasn’t a whole lot there. Either way, the Red Wings had a chance to end it in regulation, and nearly did, but Annunen came up with potentially the best save of his short NHL career to date. Somehow, J.T. Compher was left all alone in front of the net, but Annunen reached out with his blocker to rob him with six seconds left on the clock, allowing the Avalanche to get the game to overtime.


O’Connor’s penalty extended into overtime, but the Avalanche were able to kill it off. Colorado got arguably the best scoring chance of overtime, as Bowen Byram had a clean breakaway from his own blueline, but Lyon made the stop.

The Red Wings got fresh players on the ice, and Patrick Kane, who Detroit signed earlier this season, finished the game off after a sweet pass from Larkin. Nathan MacKinnon got mixed up, leaving his man to try and double team Larkin, but the Red Wings captain dropped it back to Kane, who beat Annunen over the glove.

A wasted opportunity for the Avalanche, especially when you consider they got a strong performance from Annunen in what might have been his best NHL start. The road troubles continue for this team, but they’ll be headed home for now. On Saturday, they’ll take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Ball Arena. That game starts at 5 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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