The Avalanche returned to form this afternoon, giving up three goals to the Minnesota wild in the first period and never quite recovering despite flashes of competency.
The last two periods against the St. Louis Blues on Friday were 40 of the better minutes this Avalanche team has played this season. So, naturally, the team came out as flat as month-old soda for much of the first 20 minutes. (Gotta keep expectations in check!) The first goal of the game occurred following a really unimpressive breakout pass attempt from Blake Comeau. Instead of hitting either Carl Soderberg or Mikhail Grigorenko skating up ice, he handed the puck right to Minnesota’s defense in the neutral zone, who quickly forced the puck back into Colorado’s zone. After skating right past Tyson Barrie, Charlie Coyle dished to Martin Hanzal, who buried the pass for his 19th goal on the year.
Jared Spurgeon would make it 2-0 just 24 seconds later on one of the weirdest goals you will ever see. Erik Haula won a faceoff in Colorado’s zone and moved the puck back up to the point. After it came to Jared Spurgeon, he fired a long wrister that hit something out front and popped straight up in the air. Calvin Pickard, standing up to find the puck, watched helplessly as it dropped immediately in front of him and bounced forward into the net.
The Avalanche would get one back later in the first when rookie J.T. Compher controlled the puck in his own zone and preceded to beat just about everybody down the ice for a two-on-one opportunity with line mate Gabriel Landeskog. Compher, waiting for the perfect opportunity, slid the puck right through defenseman Christian Folin for an easy Landeskog finish to draw Colorado back within one.
With just 20 seconds left in the opening period, the Wild would manage yet another goal. Pickard, playing the puck behind his net, send it along the boards to an awaiting Mikko Koivu, who quickly threw it back in front of the net through a bunch of traffic. The shot wouldn’t reach the net, but it would rebound into the slot on a tee for Erik Haula, who swooped in to score his 14th goal of the season and give Minnesota a 3-1 lead into the locker room.
The Wild would score a power play goal early in the second, the result of a Fedor Tyutin interference penalty. Matt Duchene lost the ensuing faceoff and Jonas Brodin sent the puck behind the net to Eric Staal. One touch pass to Zach Parise and the puck was soon in the net past Pickard, who seemed to be there for the save but was out of position to guard the post. He was then pulled in lieu of Jeremy Smith.
Jordan Schroeder would increase Minnesota’s lead yet again later in the period, standing completely unguarded below the circle. Ryan Suter saw the opportunity and hit him with a long cross-ice pass. Schroeder caught the pass on his stick, would up a wrist shot and beat Smith glove-side off the cross bar to make it 5-1.
Mikko Rantanen got another back for the Avalanche before the period ended. Receiving a gem of an up-ice pass from Sven Andrighetto, who caught an airborne puck in his own zone and immediate saw Rantanen skating past the Minnesota defense. He then boxed out Ryan Suter and fired a wrist shot stick-side to beat Devin Dubnyk for his team-leading 18th goal on the year.
The Avalanche would apply pressure for much of the third, but they would not find the net again in the closing period. The loss dropped their record to 21-54-3, which is still last place—in the Western Conference, the NHL and quite possible the entire galaxy.