The Colorado Avalanche will head home nearly empty-handed after a disappointing road trip through Canada — one that was capped off with a 5-2 loss to the Senators in Ottawa on the last day of the stretch.
With Matt Duchene and Thomas Chabot back in the lineup, the Senators were back to full strength for the first time in a while. Still, the Avalanche came out flat against a team at the bottom of the NHL’s standings, putting themselves in an unacceptable position from the start.
Once again Duchene was the catalyst for victory over his former team, as he scored two goals in his first game back after the birth of his son earlier this week.
The loss was Colorado’s 10th in their last 12 games, and it capped off an incredibly disappointing road trip that is looking nothing like a playoff team over the past month and a half.
There were no goals scored in this period, thanks largely in part to the brilliance of Semyon Varlamov. An odd-man rush in the opening 20 seconds and a Mikko Rantanen turnover in his own end gave the Senators the momentum for a large chunk of the opening minutes. The Avs spent a lot of time in their own end as the Sens pressed for a goal, coming away with several point-blank chances on the doorstep, but Varlamov was sharp.
The dump-and-chase did not work well for Colorado — Ottawa would just regain possession and exit their own end cleanly. The Avalanche had 12 giveaways in the first period (most of them came in their own end). Colorado was just a mess defending, running around everywhere as Ottawa showed off with picture-perfect passing.
It took about nine minutes into the first for the Avs to finally get things going, but the Senators did a good job of keeping Colorado’s top line quiet. The Avalanche went to the powerplay midway through the period, but they were just as lackluster on the man-advantage. Ottawa did a good job of disrupting their set-up and preventing the top unit from doing any damage. That powerplay was probably the most extended time Colorado spent in Ottawa’s end all period.
Avalanche players were flopping all over the ice trying to defend, as Ottawa got chance after chance (thank goodness for Varlamov). Ian Cole took a penalty with a minute and a half left, but Colorado actually got some scoring chances shorthanded. In the dying seconds, Carl Soderberg stole the puck after Maxime Lajoie fell behind the net. He tried a wrap-around, but was bowled over by Mikael Boedker coming back before getting the shot off.
Unlike the first period, it didn’t take long for the goals to come in the second. It only took two minutes for Brady Takchuk to break the deadlock as the fourth overall selection in last year’s draft was able to bang the Varlamov for his 11th of the season. This wasn’t Varlamov’s fault as the Avs defenders left Tkachuk wide open in front of the net.
Only a minute later Mark Stone was able to extend the lead to two as he snuck a pick past Varlamov that was nearly pulled off the line by Tyson Barrie. After a review, it was confirmed as a good goal and the Senators went up 2-0.
Trailing by two, the Avalanche began to put on a lot of pressure led by the beautiful new second line. Despite the pressure - and a good chance on a breakaway from Sven Andrighetto - it was the Senators that were able to score the game’s next goal when Ryan Dzingel made it 3-0 after a nice passing play that was extenuated by a brutal defensive breakdown from Ian Cole.
After the Dzingel goal the Avalanche dominated the rest of the period. After being stopped on a couple of very solid chances, its was Nikita Zadorov who finally got the Avs on the board with a bomb from the point. It was Z’s fourth of the season and it shrunk Ottawa’s lead to 3-1 going into the third.
After killing off a penalty to start the period, the Avalanche were able to apply a lot of pressure to start the season, but once again they simply couldn’t capitalize The Senators were able to hold on long until Duchene was able to force the lead back to three. His third goal against the Avalanche since being traded, the birthday boy beat Gabriel Landeskog to a loose puck at the side of the net to bang home his 19th of the season.
Two minutes later Matt Calvert thought he had cut the lead back to two as he was able to bank the puck in off of Anders Nilsson’s back. Unfortunately after a review, it was determined that the net was off it’s moorings when the puck went in the net. The goal was taken off the board and the Avalanche remained down 4-1 with a little under half a period to go.
With 4:47 left in regulation the Avalanche went to the powerplay and chose to keep Varlamov on the bench. Playing six on four, Nathan MacKinnon scored his 27th of the season as he ripped a laser over the shoulder of Nilsson.
A couple of second later the Senators took another penalty and with another two man-advantage, the Avs came within an inch of cutting the lead to one as Alex Kerfoot put a puck off the post.
After some sustained pressure - and scary play by Nilsson - Matt Duchene (because who else) was able to find the empty net to make the final 5-2 for the Senators.
The Avalanche will have a couple days off as the head home to prepare for the Los Angeles Kings Saturday afternoon.
How do we sum up the road trip? Well TSN put up this graphic late in the third period: