Heading into their Thursday night game, the Colorado Avalanche had been stringing together a dominant stretch of games. They’d scored five goals in four of their last six (prior to tonight’s game), allowed just one in four of their last five, and won all of their last six but a 4-2 contest against the high-flying Nashville Predators.
With an inconsistent season strung together themselves, the Kings were a hopeful target for yet another win on the month - but ultimately, Semyon Varlamov’s impressive run came to an end as Colorado dropped a tough 7-1 final decision at home in Denver.
The first period saw things get out of hand for Colorado before they could even get their bearings, with the Kings scoring three in the first 20 minutes and putting up a whopping 15 shots in the process.
Colorado appeared to start off with a bang, witnessing Mikko Rantanen put home his 27th of the season, scooping up a rebound when Jonathan Quick turned away Gabriel Landeskog’s shot and finding the back of the net on the second attempt:
From there, though, the Kings would put up three unanswered tallies, watching perennial Selke candidate Anze Kopitar score goals 30 and 31 on the season with a Jake Muzzin tally sandwiched in between.
While the Avalanche would only manage to earn one penalty in the first frame, Kopitar’s second (although not last) of the night would come on the Kings’ man advantage with less than a minute to go; it was a frustrating way to end the period, and things didn’t exactly get better from there.
As the game progressed, Colorado would be denied on the remainder of their shots, but two goals apiece would come in both the second and third periods to elevate the Kings to a 7-1 final score.
To make matters worse, both Tobias Rieder and Anze Kopitar would score a goal apiece in each period, bringing Rieder to 11 goals on the season and Kopitar to four in a single game (what’s up, Joe Thornton?).
Although Kopitar’s second would be the only power-play tally on the night, it’s almost more frustrating to see the team allow six goals at even strength - and with a shot count of 35-30 in LA’s favor to go with the lopsided score, that’s all she wrote.
- When Jonathan Quick is off his game, he’s an easy-to-target goaltender with plenty of holes to exploit and corners to pick - but when he’s on, he’s nearly impossible to beat. He showcased that again on Thursday, stopping 29 of 30 shots for a .967 save percentage in all situations; it was a hot run for him, but disappointing for the Avalanche nonetheless.
- Speaking of goaltenders, Semyon Varlamov came into Thursday’s game with a string of elite performances put together. He hadn’t allowed a third period goal in eight games, dating back to a final frame tally by Ryan Ellis during a game against the Predators on March 4th. Technically, that streak is still intact, since he was yanked after the second - but needless to say, his impenetrable net fell victim to some serious regression against a determined Kings roster. There’s hope it’s just a one-off poor performance, but it’s not the kind of game that the team wanted to see in a tightly-fought Wild Card race late in March.
- With this loss, Colorado still sits first in the Wild Card race, ahead of Anaheim, St. Louis, Dallas, and Calgary. But the race between Anaheim and Colorado is neck-in-neck, and St. Louis has been heating up lately; if the Avalanche start to slip at all down the back stretch, they could find themselves in a bit of trouble.
- Nathan MacKinnon now has 38 goals and 92 points in 66 games. That’s stupidly unreal. Putting aside the fact that this year may be the first season to see an entire handful of 100-plus point getters in a while, it’s safe to say that the Halifax native has cemented his place in the Hart race for good.