If it weren’t for bad luck, the Avalanche wouldn’t have any luck at all.
Colorado had seemingly all the possession — all the chances — in the second game of their four-game Canadian road trip against Johnny Gaudreau’s Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
The Avalanche led 35 to 16 in shots on goal; they led 79 to 42 in total shot attempts. But on the scoreboard, they lost 5-3.
If you combine the last two games, the Avalanche as a team have allowed 12 goals on 37 total shots.
On one hand, Colorado played on the road against Winnipeg and Calgary, the leaders of the two Western Conference divisions, and allowed a TOTAL of 37 shots on goal in two games. On the other hand, though, they lost both games — and allowed 12 goals in the process.
Blame goaltending. Blame the second line. Blame defense. Blame who you want, but the Avalanche really played great hockey and just simply couldn’t find a way to win. As Gabriel Landeskog said after the game, “we dominated both games. It’s frustrating.”
The Avalanche have now allowed 70 goals over their last 17 games played, the most in the NHL over that span.
About five minutes into the game, Gaudreau pivoted back and forth behind the Avalanche net, then found James Neal on a quick pass. Neal put his exorbitant salary to use, throwing a low shot that tested Semyon Varlamov’s rebound control. The puck ricocheted off his left pad, and Mikael Backlund deposited the rebound to the far side to give Calgary a 1-0 lead.
Soon after, Alex Kerfoot turned over the biscuit on an Avalanche breakout. Sam Bennett found Mark Jankowski for a quick one-timer, and it was 2-0 on just four shots against.
Between the Flames goals, the Avalanche had been dominating. Their power play was producing shots, and Mikko Rantanen squandered a glorious chance in front of the net, but nothing fell through.
Colorado responded to the deficit well, and ramped up the pressure even more. Nathan MacKinnon scored on a one-timer from Landeskog, then Erik Johnson buried a goal on the rush from Tyson Jost. Bang, bang, 2-2 after 20 minutes.
The second period was complete domination from Colorado again for the first 12 minutes, until it wasn’t. Tyson Barrie took a dumb hooking penalty, and Calgary’s Elias Lindholm (probably one of the most underappreciated players in the league) sniped a wrister to put Calgary up 3-2.
Colorado continued to carry the bulk of the play, especially the first line, but somehow Calgary fluked in another goal. Mark Giordano missed a shot that was probably going five feet wide of the net before hitting Michael Frolik’s leg, somehow ultimately ending up behind Varlamov from almost no angle. The Flames went up 4-2, so undeservedly it seemed like comedy.
In the final minutes, Rantanen scored a goal to pull the Avalanche within a goal, but Matthew Tkachuk scored into an empty net to finish off the night.
This was the best I’ve seen the top line play in probably a month. When MacKinnon was on the ice, an incredible 45 shot attempts went toward the Flames’ net, while only 15 attempts were against. Rantanen was fantastic. Landeskog had a game-high 15 shot attempts.
That line has clearly been great all year, especially in the second game of a back-to-back. In seven such contests this season, MacKinnon now has 15 points (seven goals and eight assists).
But it might be time for a trade for some scoring depth. The time on ice from the top line was ridiculous; Landeskog played 26:31, Rantanen played 25:42, and MacKinnon played 25:37. Forwards are not supposed to play that much, but given the stark difference in productivity between the top line and the rest of the line-up, it’s tough to blame Jared Bednar.
Varlamov wasn’t great, either. I’ll leave it at that.
David Rittich made 32 of 35 saves for the Flames amid a breakout season for him. He really impressed tonight, other than a softie he allowed to Rantanen with 38 seconds left in the game. Rittich has been a godsend for Calgary, as they are reaching and exceeding all expectations so far.
I’m also definitely here for the Mark Giordano for Norris campaign.
Colorado’s next game is at Montreal on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT. Hopefully they find some puck luck, or as they say in Quebec, chance de la rondelle.