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Avalanche Light Up Hellebuyck, But Georgiev Flounders in 7-6 Loss

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WINNIPEG – You score six goals against the best goaltender in the world, and you should win. That was not the case for the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday evening.

The Avalanche showed they can beat Connor Hellebuyck, but if you can’t get a save from your own goaltender, it really doesn’t matter. Alexandar Georgiev gave up seven goals on just 23 shots, as the Avalanche fell 7-6. Nobody wanted to throw their goaltender under the bus after the game, but let’s be honest here – the Avalanche should have won that game. They didn’t because their goaltender just wasn’t good enough. Justus Annunen did not dress due to illness, but if he had, one would have to wonder if Jared Bednar would have pulled his starter.

Six different Avalanche skaters scored goals on a night where they out-shot and out-chanced the home team pretty significantly. Unfortunately, all they have to show for it is a 7-6 loss, meaning they trail in the series 1-0.

First Period

If you’re Jared Bednar, your team came out and played about as well as they possibly could in a chaotic environment. Jets fans were loud, but they had to quiet down a bit for the first six minutes, because it was all Colorado. At one point, the shots were 10-1 in favor of the road team, and a very important player got them on the board early.

Moments after Hellebuyck stopped a nice look from Lehkonen, the Jets dumped the puck out. Josh Manson corralled it and launched it back towards the offensive zone, where Valeri Nichushkin was waiting. The big Russian, who famously missed most of the Kraken series last year, wired a perfect shot over Hellebuyck’s blocker, making it 1-0 and really silencing the crowd.

For about two minutes.

On Winnipeg’s third shot of the game, they tied it up. Josh Morrisey floated a puck through traffic that beat Georgiev pretty easily. From our angle in the press box, there wasn’t a ton of net covered. It didn’t stop there.

Josh Manson might have been the best player in the first 10 minutes, but the second half of the period from him was ugly. Three minutes after the first goal, Georgiev sent a backhand pass to Manson. The defenseman could have taken the safe play and ringed it around the boards, but instead, he tried to backhand it up the middle. A dangerous play that didn’t work at all, as it was deflected and went right to former Avalanche forward Vlad Namestnikov. He blasted a shot over Georgiev’s glove, making it 2-1.

Colorado needed something good to happen, and the third line came through. Ross Colton broke up a pass in the neutral zone, forcing the Jets to regroup. Samberg felt the pressure from Colton, who deflected his pass right to Joel Kiviranta. The Finn, playing because of Jonathan Drouin’s absence, hit a wide open Miles Wood to tie the game up. 18 seconds later, Colorado’s superstar joined in.

Cale Makar made a nice play at the offensive blueline keeping the puck in and getting it down low to Mikko Rantanen. With a little bit of time, Rantanen hit Nathan MacKinnon on the far side. MacKinnon shuffled his hips, kept his feet moving, and let a quick shot go through Hellebuyck’s legs, who looked surprised. Just when you thought the period couldn’t get any crazier, it did.

Winnipeg didn’t have many extended shifts in the offensive zone, but they did get one immediately after MacKinnon’s goal. Colorado’s second line got hemmed in by the Jets top line, and Mittelstadt turned the puck over behind his net after taking a hit. Vilardi took the puck, cut to the net, and hit Mark Schiefele at the back post, who snuck away from Manson. Just like that, it was 3-3.

An insane period in an insane environment, but if you’re the Avalanche, you can’t feel great about it. You controlled the play, beat Hellebuyck three times, and could only get out of the period tied.

Second Period

Period two was a bit more of what I expected this period. Both goalies settled down a little bit, leading to a low scoring period.

If you’re the Avalanche, you probably wish your goaltender settled down a little earlier.

Cale Makar made a pinch at the offensive blueline after his shot was blocked, and the puck bounced over his stick. That led to a 2-on-1 with Adam Lowry leading the way. Lowry looked off the pass, as Toews had it covered, and set his sights on shooting. He didn’t get much on his shot because Toews appeared to get his stick on the shot, but it somehow snuck through Georgiev’s legs, giving the Jets the lead.

Georgiev kind of settled down after that, and he really needed to because Winnipeg got the first powerplay of the game. He made a few stops on the penalty kill, but his biggest stop came on Kyle Connor after the penalty ended, going side-to-side to stop the Jets sniper. A few minutes later he stopped Toffoli on an odd-man rush. Some saves were nice, but was it too little, too late? Colorado wasn’t able to find the equalizer, and went into the third down by one.

Third Period

It was indeed too little, too late.

Three minutes into the third, the Jets got a bit of a controversial one. A defensive breakdown left Adam Lowry alone in front. MacKinnon got to him, but was a little late and didn’t tie up his stick, allowing Lowry to go around. The Jets forward beat Georgiev, but the puck bounced off both posts and out, with the refs immediately stating it never went in. Replays showed otherwise, though. The goal would count, as it just barely crossed over the goal line, making it 5-3. Two minutes later, it was 6-3, and the game was about over.

Colorado added a goal on a Lehkonen deflection about 30 seconds later, but the Jets responded almost immediately, making this ridiculous game 7-4. Makar beat Hellebuyck on the powerplay with 12:54 remaining, and Mittelstadt added one with the net empty, but wasn’t enough. Colorado fell 7-6 in an absurd game, and now trails in the series.

To put up six goals on the best goalie in the NHL and lose is demoralizing, but there are reasons for Colorado to be optimistic. They played really well and generated a lot, but can they get enough saves to win this series? Only time will tell.

Game two takes place on Tuesday at 8:30 PM MST.

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