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Colorado Avalanche

Avalanche Fall To Leafs In ‘Frustrating’ Loss On Home Ice




When two good teams match up, one team will inevitably lose, but the way the Colorado Avalanche lost on Saturday night will cause head coach Jared Bednar to lose some sleep.

Avoidable penalties, a penalty kill that couldn’t slow down the Maple Leafs, and at least one goal Georgiev would love to have back caused the Avalanche to leave Ball Arena with zero points in a 4-3 loss. They know they gave away points they can’t afford to.

“That was frustrating, because I thought we played hard and did a lot of good things,” Bednar said after the game. “I felt like we did it to ourselves at the end of the game.”

Nathan MacKinnon picked up three assists, extending his home point scoring streak to 28 games. Mikko Rantanen picked up two assists, and Cale Makar registered his first point since Feb. 6. Georgiev finished with 26 saves on 30 shots.

First Period

There’s nothing better than watching two good teams go toe-to-toe with each other, and that’s what we saw in period one. Going up against a good team, it never hurts to get off to a strong start, and Colorado’s powerplay was given an opportunity just 49 seconds in to get things started on the right foot.

They came through with the best looking powerplay the team has had since the All-Star break.

It was 1:27 of relentless pressure from Colorado, made possible by some great keep-ins by Jonathan Drouin and Cale Makar. After plenty of shots, the Avalanche decided to get a little tricky. Nathan MacKinnon wound up for a slapper, but instead sent a slap-pass to Artturi Lehkonen in front, who deflected it past Samsonov to give Colorado the early lead.

Nine minutes later, Colorado extended their lead, as Morgan Rielly was left in a tough position trying to defend Nathan MacKinnon in transition. He had two choices – let MacKinnon go around him, or try and interfere him. If he tried to slow him down, he didn’t try very hard, because MacKinnon cruised past him, creating a 2-on-1 for the Avalanche. Brodie bit hard on MacKinnon, who sent a pass to a wide open Cogliano. The veteran one-timed a shot past Samsonov’s glove, making it 2-0.

You can’t slow down a team as talented as Toronto forever, though. Auston Matthews registered three shots on goal in period one alone, and soon after Cogliano’s goal, Ross Colton took a very avoidable interference penalty, giving the Leafs a chance to get back into it. They did exactly that.

Everything was just a little too easy for the Leafs, as Mitch Marner was allowed to dictate everything. He created a numbers advantage down low, and sent a pass to Tyler Bertuzzi at the far post, who was left wide open. Bertuzzi sent the puck into the empty net, cutting the Colorado lead to one.

With under a minute left, Colton nearly made up for his penalty, but his redirect in front of the net went off the post and just barely stayed out of the net.

Second Period

For the first ten minutes of the second period, the Avalanche had plenty of chances to extend their lead. O’Connor had a breakaway, Byram was robbed on a one-timer, and O’Connor snuck another shot behind Samsonov, but Colorado couldn’t get that insurance goal. Just seconds after O’Connor nearly gave them one, the Leafs went the other way, taking advantage of a Colorado mistake.

Bowen Byram did a nice job keeping the puck in at the blueline, but immediately turned it over, leading to an odd-man rush the other way. To make matters worse, after Georgiev made the initial stop, Byram ran into him, taking him out of the play. Bertuzzi whacked home his second of the night, tying the game up at two.

That goal turned the tide in the second. From that point on, it was all Leafs, and they took the lead off an icing by the Avalanche.

Toronto controlled the puck immediately off the face-off, and Mitch Marner was allowed to dance around with the puck at the offensive blueline. He eventually threw a soft wrist shot towards the net, which beat Georgiev cleanly on the glove side, a goal he looked like he really wanted back. After the game, his head coach agreed.

“We need a save on that one, I think,” Jared Bednar said.

Third Period

Down a goal, the Avalanche came out pushing the play in the third, and the much-maligned Mikko Rantanen came through to tie it up.

Colorado’s top line, with Lehkonen replacing Drouin, maintained possession in the offensive zone, tiring out the Leafs defenders. MacKinnon dropped the puck to Rantanen at center point, and the Finn decided to throw a wrister at the net, similar to what Marner did on the third Leafs goal. It beat Samsonov, tying the game up at three, and you could tell it meant a lot to Rantanen, who let a big fist-pump go as the crowd roared.

That elation was short-lived for the star winger.

With under five minutes left in the game, Rantanen had plenty of time to cleanly get the puck out of the zone, but in trying to lift it up and over the Leafs defenders, sent it out of play, giving the Maple Leafs a late powerplay.

It didn’t end well.

The Leafs kept the puck in the zone for well over a minute, wearing down the Avalanche, and eventually forced them into a huge mistake. William Nylander went to take the puck behind the net, and Sam Girard followed. Josh Manson also decided to go behind the net, leaving Bertuzzi wide open in front. Nylander hit Bertuzzi with a pass, and his shot easily beat Georgiev, who had no idea where the puck was.

Colorado pushed with the net empty, but didn’t get any clean looks on Samsonov until MacKinnon’s chance with 0.5 seconds left. Toronto walked away with the 4-3 win, and the Avalanche walked away with zero points in a game that was tied with under five minutes to go.

The Avalanche will stay at home and await their next opponent in a game that matters a lot more than this one did. The Dallas Stars, who the Avalanche are battling with in the Central Division, will come to town on Tuesday. That game starts at 7:30 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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