As they embarked on their longest road trip of the year, heading on a five game sojourn through Canada, the Colorado Avalanche were in search of some momentum and to build off of their last victory against the New York Rangers.
Beating the Winnipeg Jets was a tall task at hand, though, and ultimately impossible to accomplish with the type of mistakes the Avalanche made in this 7-4 loss.
An early power play went the way of the visitors, but they couldn’t capitalize. Instead it would be the home club who got on the board first, with Mathieu Perreault scoring just three minutes into the game off of a complete defensive breakdown by Ian Cole. The Jets would then score on their own power play from Kyle Connor at 13:57 to stretch the lead to two.
All-star candidate Gabe Landeskog would answer back before the end of the period to score his 26th goal of the season, alleviating some of the damage on his signature tip play on the power play at 16:04.
All the gains the Avalanche made in the first period though, including a 14-7 shot advantage and 61.54 Corsi For percentage, were given away with more stupid mistakes in the second frame.
Blake Wheeler scored shorthanded at 3:22 when Tyson Barrie and Mikko Rantanen couldn’t figure out coverage in the defensive zone.
Those problems would compound when Carl Soderberg took two consecutive minor penalties, and Bryan Little converted at 6:32 to give Winnipeg a commanding 4-1 lead.
The Avalanche were not ready to roll over just yet, as Soderberg redeemed himself with a fantastic individual effort at 16:10 and reminded everyone what secondary scoring really looks like.
Ryan Graves added on his own secondary scoring efforts at 17:43 with another goal on a miraculous defender-driven wraparound, and the Avalanche were back in business down just one in the contest after two periods.
They were down but not out, and would begin the third on a power play.
After the Avalanche failed to capitalize on yet another critical late game power play, though, golatender Philipp Grubauer gave up the back breaking and eventual game-winning goal to Andrew Copp just four minutes into the period. It was a bad goal to let in, and at a point in the game where the team was begging for just one good save.
The rest of the period the Avalanche would trade goals. Mark Scheifele scored on a breakaway at 11:12. Perhaps deciding they had a better chance to win without a goaltender in net, the Avalanche pulled Grubauer in favor of the extra attacker with over four minutes left in the contest — and were rewarded with another goal deflected by Landeskog. Jacob Trouba then added the seventh and final goal for Winnipeg in the empty net, though, and with a minute to go they finished things off for a 7-4 final score.
Grubauer did not look comfortable in net from the start of this game, even after a solid effort in his last start. The defense was a mess at times, but giving up six goals on 20 shots is not great from any angle. The fifth goal in particular was completely unacceptable, and the Avalanche are now faced with how to manage the fact that Grubauer is not taking the starting job in which the organization desperately wants and needs him to.
Surprisingly, the Avalanche controlled the majority of this game, holding Winnipeg to just seven shots in each period and putting up nearly a 60% Corsi For percentage in those periods as well. Giving up three goals on four penalty kills is another area that is killing the gains and momentum the team is creating, though. The improved play overall is something the team can build on in search of a more complete effort to compete with the better teams in the league.
The Avalanche draw and take a league leading number of penalties but they need to get their penalty kill out of the bottom five if they are going to live that way. veterans such as Soderberg who has taken four minor penalties in the last five games needs to clean it up and lead the way for the rest of the team.
The journey continues tomorrow night in Calgary against the Flames at 7pm MST.