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Kings Ransom: Colorado fails to earn points in yet another California loss

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After a tough OT loss Sunday, the Avalanche can’t pull off a complete game in 3-1 loss to Los Angeles Monday night

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Los Angeles Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche are doing their best to limp into the postseason with a once-again depleted roster, but a powerful surge from the Los Angeles Kings and a lackluster effort from the Colorado lineup resulted in a lost two points.

FINAL SCORE: LOS ANGELES KINGS 3, COLORADO AVALANCHE 1

First Period

Early in the game, Gabriel Bourque hits Los Angeles’ top-pairing defenseman Derek Forbort into the boards right before he could step into the offensive zone. It’s a clean shoulder check, but Forbort is forced to leave the bench and head to the dressing room for repairs.

Nathan MacKinnon explodes past Dion Phaneuf at the offensive blue line and nearly gets the puck past Jonathan Quick with a wrap-around attempt. Quick was up to the task, gloving the puck so Gabe Landeskog can’t jump on the rebound.

The Avalanche push four men deep and leave Dustin Brown wide open for a break-out pass from Anze Kopitar. Brown goes in all alone on Jonathan Bernier but shoots the puck through Bernier’s legs and out the other side. Zadorov did a decent job of annoying Brown from behind without taking a penalty. Adrian Kempe gets his own breakaway chance minutes later but Bernier stops him with the right pad.

0-1

Nate Thompson shoots the puck on net from the top of the circle on a three-on-three rush chance, the puck bounces off the boards awkwardly such that Bernier has to jump over the puck so as to not knock it in himself but leaves the net vulnerable for Torrey Mitchell to pot the puck in himself. Not sure where the defense was but an unlucky bounce is an unlucky bounce. Drew Doughty is awarded with the secondary assist. Bah!

Zadorov and Phaneuf get into a fight! The two big boys have a decent tilt at center ice, nothing dirty, as gentlemanly as you can get for an event where two grown men punch each other in the face while on skates.

[Thanks, Nathan Rudolph]

0-2

Christian Folin trips Alex Kerfoot in the defensive zone, giving the Avs their first power play of the game. Almost immediately Dustin Brown breaks his stick, giving the Avs a 3.5 on 5-man advantage. The play goes on and Brown is able to grab a stick from the bench before almost immedaitely grabbing the puck at the point and rushing for an offensive chance. He shoots through a defending Tyson Barrie, beating Bernier top-shelf, far side. Kopitar and Alec Martinez get the assists.

Dion Phaneuf hits MacKinnon hard into the boards behind the net. MacKinnon is slow to get up, but appears fine as he skates to the bench. Phaneuf skates to the box for boarding. Tyson Jost, Barrie, Mikko Rantanen and MacKinnon combine for some great puck movement, but a Doughty blocked pass in front of the net kills the best chance the Avs get on the power play.

The Avalanche were trying so hard to create offense at one end that they forgot to cover their backs at the other. The forward group as a whole left the defense high and dry at least five times, from what I could tell, in the first period alone. The shot metrics don’t show kindly to the Avs, either. They trail in shots (3-4), attempts (9-13), and scoring chances (5-6) after one period of play.

Second Period

The second begins with news that Derek Forbort has suffered a lower-body injury and will not return to the game. Colorado will be playing against five defenseman for almost 60 full minutes.

Torrey Mitchell trips Sam Girard in the defensive zone as Girard tries to spin against the forecheck and skate the puck out. The Avs have had their chances against LA but the league’s best penalty kill has been a thorn in the side of Colorado all night. They’re relentless, responsible, and quick.

1-2

That said, Alex Kerfoot scores the first goal of the game for Colorado. Colin Wilson wins a puck battle in the corner and Sven Andrighetto whips the puck across the ice to Kerfoot at the bottom of the left faceoff dot. Kerfoot out-waits the fidgety Quick and chips the puck over his falling body with ease.

Dustin Brown has been in the face of the Avalanche — specifically Nate MacKinnon — all game. He hit MacKinnon hard while the Avs were on the power play in the first period, again in the second, and has been jawing at him whenever they’re on the ice together. This moment, MacKinnon let his emotions get the best of him as he goes to the box for tripping Brown in the Avs’ zone. Looks like Brown dived but no referee is going to call that, moving on.

The Kings controlled the pace of play for most of the second period, the Avs have been turning the puck over in the neutral zone consistantly. However, as the period hit about five minutes left, the Avs started giving the Kings a taste of their own medicine. Sam Girard has been a blessing for this team in transition, he’s just so good at getting the puck through the middle of the ice and into the offensive zone with control.

Third Period

The Avalanche have lost considerable steam by the final period, and put up a lackluster fight at best against a Kings lineup that has started outright allowing easy shots to slip through just to kill the clock.

While Los Angeles doesn’t do much to push for another goal, they focus hard enough on protecting their lead that the Avalanche just aren’t able to generate anything of substance.

By the final three minutes, Jared Bednar has had enough; he pulls Jonathan Bernier with considerable time remaining, hoping that a combination of five forwards and Tyson Barrie will be able to get something done and even up the score.

3-1

Instead, the team’s theme of the night - pushing for offensive pressure but failing to adequately protect their own end - bites them one final time, when they find themselves at a loss to protect their net upon a return to 5-on-5 play with two minutes remaining. Kyle Clifford and Adrian Kempe easily carry the puck the full length of the ice to put pressure on Bernier, setting up a fantastic play for Trevor Lewis before Clifford finally gets the job done all on his own. He scoops up his own rebound right in the slot, skating around the back of the net and chipping the puck in to make it 3-1.

While the Avalanche try to capitalize on the final few minutes of play, a penalty taken with just under 30 seconds to go all but seals their fate, and they skate away with a poorly-timed regulation loss.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • The Avalanche gave the Los Angeles Kings an impossibly easy path to the postseason, ensuring they’ll make it if they earn just one more point before the year is over this weekend.
  • They’re still up by a point on the Blues themselves, as well, and can ensure they earn a postseason berth by simply defeating the Blues when they come head-to-head this weekend - but it won’t be an easy trip. They’ve underperformed in the second half of their back-to-back in Southern California, and only remain in an advantageous spot because the Blues are faltering as well. After a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night, St. Louis lost 4-2 to the Washington Capitals on Monday to guarantee they didn’t leapfrog Colorado before their home-and-away series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • The good news is that if the Avalanche win both of their next two games, it won’t matter if St. Louis sweeps their home-and-away against Chicago this week; they’ll finish with one additional point over the Blues if that happens, ensuring they see postseason action. If they lose against San Jose, though, their destiny is officially out of their hands.
  • MacKinnon remains one of the league’s most dynamic forwards this year, but the team certainly isn’t doing him many favors at the moment. With some of the toughest matchups constantly thrown in front of him during games down the final stretch, the Hart candidate has been struggling to dominate as much as he normally does. The Avalanche are more than a bit injured at the moment, but they’re still nonetheless showing the many holes they still have in their lineup to fill moving forward.