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Lightning strike thrice, beat Avalanche in overtime

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Colorado delivers yet another loss to their hometown crowd despite a furious third-period comeback.

Courtesy of the NHL.com/avalanche

Even in a historically bad season, the Colorado Avalanche still play some of the most effective and exciting six-on-five hockey of any team in the NHL. Matt Duchene capped off a valiant third-period comeback with a last-minute, game-tying goal, only to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning take the game during the subsequent overtime.

Tampa thoroughly dominated the first 40 minutes of this game, putting 30 shots on net through the first two periods. Fortunately for Avalanche fans, they would only manage to score on two of them. The first of which came late in the first when Brayden Point capitalized during a broken defensive coverage in the Avalanche zone during a controlled possession. Nikita Zadorov chased a center high in the slot and his defensive partner, Francois Beauchemin, strangely vacated his zone where Alex Killhorn was standing to guard someone else. Killhorn, now wide open with the puck, zipped a pass over to Point, who was streaking through the slot, and buried the one-timer. Whose fault was it? Not sure we’ll ever know, but it definitely wasn’t NHL-caliber.

The second goal likely induced some deja vu for anyone who caught Friday’s Carolina Hurricanes game. Vladislav Namestnikov skated into the Avalanche zone with Tyson Barrie close by, forcing him to swing out wide left. He then took a poor angle shot that deflected (slightly) off Barrie’s stick and through the legs of an awaiting Calvin Pickard, who really should have had this one too. It was nearly identical to Jeff Skinner’s shot on Friday with a nearly identical result—uncanny.

The Avalanche, however, would wake up and start playing some serious hockey to begin the third. After managing just 14 shots on net through the first two, they would equal that total in the final frame alone. One of those shots was a backhand attempt by Blake Comeau on a rush. His shot would be denied by Lightning goalie, Ben Bishop, but the rebound popped out into ideal position for Mikko Rantanen, who was trailing the play. He briefly collected the puck and then buried the shot for his 13th goal on the year.

Colorado would still down a goal with less than two minutes remaining, forcing coach Jared Bednar to pull his goalie in a final act of desperation—and breaking recent tradition, it actually worked! After a handful of attempts to stuff it in around the net, Nathan MacKinnon gained control of the puck and passed it back out to Tyson Barrie on the point. He then dished to Matt Duchene, who was loading up a slap shot. The resulting blast would deflect off not just one, but two Lightning players and past Bishop with just 42 seconds left to tie the game at two.

Sadly, overtime was not as kind. With Matt Nieto, Blake Comeau and Fedor Tyutin on the ice (because that’s a good three-on-three lineup), Jonathan Drouin picked Nieto’s pocket in the Avalanche zone and made a brilliant play to drive to the net and score the game-winning goal.

The overtime loss would drop the Avalanche to 16-38-3 on the year. They will attempt the act of hockey again on Tuesday when they welcome the Los Angeles Kings to the Pepsi Center.