FINAL SCORE: JETS 5 - AVALANCHE 2
At least this one got interesting in the third.
From the opening face-off, the Colorado Avalanche looked like a team that showed up in Manitoba fully unprepared to win.
The Jets were trying to knock off some rust following an entire week off. In theory, they were in a perfect spot for the Avalanche to capitalize.
Unfortunately, the Avalanche fell far short of that. They came out of the gate slow, coasting their way through with lackluster effort and falling into a hole early on that proved just too hard to climb out of.
A hard fought second half of the game wasn’t enough to make up for their poor start, and the Avalanche lost their fifth straight game — falling to 7-5-3 on the season despite starting off with a 6-2-2 effort in their first 10 games.
There are still three Avalanche players near the top of the NHL’s scoring race, but Friday night they faded into the background of what became the Blake Wheeler show. Winnipeg’s star winger finished with a goal and four assists, dominating the play every time he stepped out on the ice; in comparison, Colorado’s own stars looked dangerously like even they can’t stop things from falling back to earth soon.
After ten minutes of sluggish, disjointed play, Kyle Connor opened scoring for the Jets at 10:16 of the first, batting home a rebound on the power play.
Winnipeg was then able to net their second goal before the Avalanche had even registered their second shot on net. Mark Scheifele scored his seventh of the season just three minutes later, finding the back of the net on an ugly shot that Semyon Varlamov would almost certainly like to have back.
The Avs were able to put on a little pressure in the final few minutes of the period. But ultimately, they went into the first intermission with nothing to show for it, trailing on the shot clock 8-4 and the scoreboard 2-0.
Despite starting the period with a brief power play, the Avs failed to find the back of the net once in the second, either.
Luckily, they avoided falling even farther behind, as they definitely came out with a little pep in their step.
The team looked a lot better after the intermission, and were able to put some sustained pressure on Winnipeg - even while killing penalties. With 11 minutes left in the period, Sheldon Dries had a clear shorthanded breakaway from the red line.
He was unable to beat Connor Hellebuyck for a goal that would have swung the momentum of the game, but the team at least had another handful of good looks. A few minutes later, Mikko Rantanen did beat Hellebuyck, but unfortunately he rang his power play shot off of the post to maintain the shutout.
It was a much better period, as the Avs were able to even the shot count at 16 apiece. Going into the second intermission, the team had a lot of positives to build on.
Then, in the final period, fans of both teams finally had some excitement.
It only took about two minutes for the Avalanche to cut the lead in half, as Erik Johnson scored his first goal of the season just 2:36 into the final frame.
The veteran came through with a great individual effort to make it 2-1, giving the Avalanche some legitimate momentum for the first time in the game.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Only a few minutes later, Nikolaj Ehlers extended the lead back to two, finishing off a play in which Blake Wheeler made Patrik Nemeth look absolutely foolish. The Winnipeg captain advantage of a fringe NHLer, and his undressing of Colorado’s defence set up what turned out to be the game winning goal.
Good news came only a minute later as Tyson Jost - in his first game back from a head injury - finally scored his first even strength goal of the season, capitalizing on a beautiful setup from Alex Kerfoot.
The play was started by a tremendous outlet pass from Tyson Barrie, reminded Avs fans just how valuable he is to the team’s breakout and transition game.
Unfortunately, though, that was as close as the Avalanche would get to staying in the game.
Patrik Laine added an insurance goal on the power play midway through the third, and Blake Wheeler topped off a five point night with an empty netter at 18:34 of the third to give the Jets a 5-2 victory.
- Samuel Girard reminded the Avalanche just how good he is, despite a poor showing by the team overall. During the second period, he played like a man possessed, as he nearly single-highhandedly got the team back in the game.
- The goal from Tyson Jost and Alex Kerfoot showed what those two are capable of - and hopefully was a sign that fans will start to see chemistry grow that duo into the makings of a proper second line.
- Erik Johnson was great in the third period. Despite getting double shifted with both Girard and Barrie in an attempt to put pressure on Winnipeg, he handled the extra responsibility well.
- Varly made some big saves, and the game could have gotten far more out of hand without his presence. Unfortunately - as is far too often the case - his outstanding play came accompanied by a very weak goal that put the Avs behind the eight ball in the first period.
- The Avalanche ended up out-shooting their opponent, but it was Winnipeg that mostly dominated the 5v5 play. The home team finished with a 54% CF%.
- It looks like Nikita Zadorov is back in the dog house, as he received only about 14 minutes of ice time tonight.
- It was another underwhelming game from the top line. It may sound crazy, but any more underwhelming play could see Bednar almost needing to do the unthinkable — splitting up one of the most tantalizing lines in hockey. Although the trio has been eye-catching for over a season now, the lack of offense in the last handful of games may leave the team with no choice but to try spicing things up.
- The Avs showed a lot of fight towards the end. Their third period was the best they’ve played in a couple weeks, which is a really good sign. If they play like that Sunday in Edmonton, it’s very likely they’ll put an end to this losing streak.