After a brief holiday break the Colorado Avalanche were back on home ice to battle the first of four consecutive divisional opponents before heading on an east coast road trip. First up were the Minnesota Wild hoping to make up ground in the tough Central Division. A back-and-forth affair ensued with a plethora of goals but yet again the third period would thwart the Avalanche as they drop this contest 6-4 to Minnesota.
In the first 10 minutes it was the Wild who opened the scoring. First getting one past goaltender Pavel Francouz through a screen at 5:33 from Carson Soucy. Then at 9:22 the Wild added to their lead on a rush chance that wasn’t covered well and Eric Staal deposited a rebound.
A fruitless power play at least generated some momentum and then the Grind Line made sure the fans wouldn’t go empty handed in the first period when at 18:24 a good cycle shift led to an Ian Cole point shot which Matt Calvert deflected right in front of goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Minnesota complained about a high stick but no dice.
The party was just being started when 46 seconds later Gabe Landeskog would get in on the action with a spectacular individual rush and finish on the backhand. The game was then tied at 2-2 after a frenzied 15-12 shot advantage for the home team first frame.
A much quieter start to the second period until the Avalanche felt Minnesota got away with too many men on the ice and the forwards got distracted in the neutral zone. This allowed the Wild free entry into the offensive zone and they fired a bad angle shot past Francouz. But the last laugh went to the Avalanche as they challenged the goal for offside and it was overturned for a gaffe similar to Landeskog’s playoff no-goal offside.
Minnesota would get that third goal a few minutes later at 11:28 from Brad Hunt on the power play. However the Avalanche would storm back as they did in the first period to take a 3-3 tie into the second intermission. Nathan MacKinnon directed the puck off his skate and into the net from a Cale Makar pass at 19:12 for the tally.
It appeared the Avalanche had solved this contest when, 1:33 into the third period, Calvert scored yet another net front deflection goal. The home team had their first lead of the evening.
That lead was short lived as Mats Zuccarello took advantage of another poor coverage situation and found the back of the net at 10:41. The final dagger would come just a minute later when Francouz gave up a post-and-in goal he saw all the way from Victor Rask. There was an empty net goal given up on a faceoff which will likely be Ryan Suter’s easiest score of the year. 6-4 Wild final.
- Shots were 44-33 in favor of the Avalanche so they had their chances in this contest. Dubnyk played well and stopped every shot that was aimed at him. Four goals should be enough offense to win any given night but more needs to come from MacKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen. They each grabbed a point in this game but if they are going to play casual on the defensive end they need to be difference makers offensively and have not been.
- The pairing of Sam Girard and Cale Makar aka “Turn and Burn” is a wonderful thing and should have been utilized more this season. However perhaps not the best time to use the duo after Makar’s eight-game absence with a bit of rust and Girard not in dominant form. Spreading out the puck movement is a better idea at this juncture as well.
- Philipp Grubauer will get his chance to redeem his leaky performances from last week in the next game. With Francouz putting forth his own uneven outing the door is back open for Grubauer to grab the majority of starts with a stellar effort in his next opportunity.
Another game tomorrow night as the Avalanche travel to Dallas to take on the Stars at 5:00pm MT.