The Colorado Avalanche went into Monday’s home game after two wins on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators over the weekend to extend their current winning streak to four games. Interestingly, the Avalanche acquired the 12-year NHL veteran Derick Brassard at the end of a busy trade deadline day from the Florida Panthers. The 31-year-old center brings lots of playoff experience to the Avalanche as they continued their push toward playoff hockey tonight. With 20 games remaining with twelve at Pepsi Center and eight on the road, the Avalanche have a favorable schedule the rest of the season.
Both Avalanche goaltenders are playing strong, with Semyon Varlamov getting the start after going 4-1-0 in his past five games with a .964 save percentage and a 1.41 goals-against-average (GAA) during that period. After winning against their Central Division rivals in the previous two games, the Avalanche needed a crucial two points to overtake the Minnesota Wild in the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
After back-and-forth play in the early stages of the game, the first powerplay of the night went to the Avalanche as Jamie McGinn tripped up Nathan MacKinnon six minutes into the period. Although the Avalanche power play has been strong lately, with four goals in the last 15 opportunities, they were unable to capitalize despite a few close chances against the Panthers’ veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo.
The Colorado Avalanche pressured the 39-year-old netminder Luongo who is currently sitting in tied for third place with Ed Belfour on the all-time career wins list. Two opportunities came from deflections for the Avs but the puck couldn’t get past Luongo who showed tonight why he’s won 484 games during his 20+ year career. Overall, the Avalanche had a stronger period, out-shooting the Panthers eleven to six yet had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
The Colorado Avalanche continued their strong offensive play in the second period and their efforts were rewarded with the first goal of the game at 2:12 of the second period. The goal was scored by Tyson Jost for his ninth of the season with assists from Patrick Nemeth and JT Compher. The Avalanche almost made it a two-goal lead as Roberto Luongo robbed Nathan MacKinnon with his glove on a two-on-one rush.
The Avalanche went back on the powerplay after a high-sticking call against former University of Denver Pioneer Henrik Borgstrom on Gabriel Landeskog. Unfortunately for the home team, Florida was able to kill off the penalty for a second time. Carl Soderberg also had a breakaway opportunity that was stymied by Roberto Luongo to keep the game at 1-0.
Play shifted in favor of the Florida Panthers as they maintained possession during a delayed penalty against Gabriel Bourque for interference. The Florida Panthers’ power play unit is the fourth-strongest in the NHL, but the Avalanche were able to prevent a game-tying goal. Shortly thereafter, the Avalanche extended the lead to two off a Mikko Rantanen wrist-shot via a pass from Tyson Barrie.
The Panthers halved the deficit late in the period as Troy Brouwer scored with 1:34 remaining. Nikita Zadorov drew an interference penalty to give the Florida their second powerplay of the evening. The visitors capitalized on the man-advantage to score their second goal within the last two minutes of the second period.
Despite letting in two goals, the Avalanche began the final frame with positive play. Alexander Kerfoot had a low shot stopped by Luongo’s right pad. However, most of the play was in the Avs’ zone as Florida carried the momentum gained from the two goals into the third. Semyon Varlamov made a huge blocker save on a Florida Panther counterattack to keep the game tied at two.
The Avalanche regained the lead at 7:49 in the period by none-other than Derick Brassard, who scored his first goal in an Avalanche sweater against his former team. The Panthers responded with a goal of their own four minutes later by Mike Hoffman to make it a 3-3 hockey game. Carl Soderberg had the best opportunity to score late as he found himself alone in the slot, but his wrist shot was stopped by Luongo.
Statistically, the game was as even as the scoreboard, with shots on goal slightly-favored the Avalanche 38 to 37 at the end of regulation. Neither team was able to score late, and the Avalanche found themselves yet another overtime game.
The Avalanche have not had a good season in overtime, with the worst record in the NHL in that category. This poor record continued as Aaron Ekblad won the game for the Florida Panthers inside of 30 seconds of OT. That brings the Avalanche’s overtime record to one win and twelve losses for the season.
The Avalanche took a point from tonight’s game to bring them level with the Minnesota Wild on 66 points. Their next contest is at home in two days against a Vancouver Canucks team who seem likely to beat the Anaheim Ducks as this article was being written. With a tight playoff race in the Western Conference, the Avalanche will need to start picking up points if they want to make it to the postseason, particularly in the remaining seven games against Central Division opponents.
One aspect of Colorado’s play tonight that needs to be improved upon in the remaining games is discipline. Nikita Zadorov’s penalty with less than two minutes remaining in the second period was the catalyst for Florida’s comeback and changed the momentum of the game going into the third.
Yet, there were positive takeaways from this game despite the loss, as Tyson Jost looked his best since his return to the NHL. It will also be interesting to see the role Derick Brassard plays in this Avalanche lineup as he’ll have an impact both on the ice and in the locker room as a veteran on a relatively young team.