For the second straight game, a very ugly third period cost the Colorado Avalanche. This time, the Avs coughed up a two goal lead - giving up four unanswered goals in a 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
After putting up poor effort late in their previous game, the Avalanche started this one off the way you’d like to see. They were the better team through the opening 20 minutes and if it weren’t for some great play by Robin Lehner, the game could have been out of reach early. The Avalanche were only able to get one past the Chicago netminder as Ryan Graves scored his sixth goal of the season with assists from Joonas Donskoi and Tyson Jost.
The goal came six minutes into the game but despite sustained pressure, the Avs were able to extend the lead before the intermission - and that would come back to haunt them.
Twenty-one seconds into the second period, Jonathan Toews was able to tie the game up when he buried a pass from Patrick Kane.
The Avs bounced back pretty well as Matt Calvert was able to get the lead back only a couple minutes later. Jost and Graves each got their second points of the night as the team’s depth players were able to step up while the top-6 struggled through the opening half of the game.
This was the end of any sort of sustained pressure the Avalanche would have all night. After the Calvert goal, the Blackhawks went on a run, outplaying the Avs by a significant margin. After about 6 minutes of sustained dominance by the Blackhawks, Gabriel Landeskog tried to shift the momentum as he got into a pretty heated fight with Dennis Gilbert. It didn’t work. The Blackhawks continued to outplay with Avalanche for most of the period - right up until the final minute when Matt Calvert buried his second of the night. Calvert was able to salvage a rough period for the Avalanche as the lead was extended to two goals with only twenty minutes to play.
Going into the second intermission, you could see the signs of a collapse coming. Despite the two goals, the second period was ugly and the Avalanche would have to change something in order to hold onto the lead.
Avs take a 3-1 lead into the third. They’ll need to clean up the defensive side of things after giving up 16 shots that period— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) December 22, 2019
Chicago continued to outplay the Avs and the dam finally broke with about nine minutes to go when Patrick Kane and Kirby Dach scored goals 28 seconds apart to tie the game at three. The Kane goal came off a defensive zone breakdown by Nikita Zadorov and Ryan Graves while the second goal was a beautiful cross ice pass that allowed Dach to use his speed and reach to beat J.T. Compher to the puck.
This has been one of Kirby Dach's best games of the season. pic.twitter.com/nmmrKs0IG1— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) December 22, 2019
With the Avalanche on their heels, Chicago took their first lead of the game with a little more than three minutes remaining when Dominik Kubalik scored his 10th goal of the season after Zadorov had knocked Philipp Grubauer over in his crease. Playing well for the first half of the game, Zadorov had bounced back after being benched in the third period against Carolina, but this was a very ugly few shifts for Big Z.
Connor Murphy was able to score an empty net goal a couple minutes later to seal this one for the road team.
The team’s defense fell apart early in the second period and just got worse as the game went on. This collapse was a team effort as Ian Cole was the only Avalanche defender without a negative shot share. No one played well in the final two periods as the blueline looked like they were all trying to do way too much. This group is at their best when they simplify their game and try to limit the opposition to low percentage shots. There were far too many mental lapses in the defensive zone during this game.
All in all, it was an ugly night for Colorado’s top-6. Nathan MacKinnon simply wasn’t on his game and despite the best efforts of the Calvert/Jost/Nichushkin line, the team wasn’t able to hold off a Blackhawks team that has now won three of their last four games.