The Colorado Avalanche went into tonight’s game looking to continue their positive play at home after beating a struggling Buffalo Sabres team 3-0 last Saturday. With 13 games remaining in the regular season, the Avalanche were on the outside of the playoff picture but could climb back into a tie for the second-place wildcard spot on 74 points with a victory this evening.
That was never going to be an easy task against a Carolina Hurricanes team that is 10-2-1 in its previous thirteen contests and is looking to get back into the postseason after a nine-year absence, which is the longest active playoff drought in the NHL. However, it should also be mentioned the last time the Hurricanes franchise won at Pepsi Center they played in Hartford and were called the Whalers.
Although not as physical as the victory against the Sabres, the game tonight had the pace of a playoff contest early on as it was very end-to-end in the opening minutes. The Avalanche got the first power-play of the night from a hooking call by McGinn. Nathan MacKinnon’s deadly wrist shot was snagged by the Canes’ netminder Petr Mrazek during the power-play opportunity and he was twice more during a crash on net.
Unfortunately, the eighth-best power play in the NHL was unable to capitalize on the early powerplay chance with four shots on goal during the man advantage.
The Avalanche received another power play after a delay of game call but were stopped again by the Carolina Hurricanes’ penalty kill unit. Carolina had a goal waved off after Philipp Grubauer was checked into his own net and didn’t have a chance to make a save on the play.
Although there was no score in the first period, the Avalanche play looked strong with 14 shots on goal to Carolina’s nine. It also seemed as if the final four or five minutes were in their offensive zone. Indeed, the Avalanche would have taken the lead if it were not for the heroics of Carolina’s goaltender Mrazek.
The Carolina Hurricanes began the second period quickly, putting the pressure on Grubauer and the Avalanche defense early in the period. Colorado’s Alexander Kerfoot was called for tripping and gave the Hurricanes their first power play of the game. Discipline has been a major weakness for the Avalanche this season, as the only team in the NHL with an average of over 10 penalty minutes per game. The good news is the Avalanche were not punished for the penalty this time around.
Despite no goals during the first half of tonight’s game, it was far from boring as the play jumped from zone-to-zone midway through the second period. The Carolina Hurricanes were the first on the board via a Dougie Hamilton wrist shot over Grubauer’s glove shoulder during a delayed penalty on the Avalanche 10:07 into the second period.
Nathan MacKinnon’s pace drew a slashing penalty and the Avalanche went on the powerplay for the third time this evening with five minutes remaining in the period. Again, the Avalanche power-play was shut down by the Carolina. At the end of two period, the shots on goal was 25 for the Avalanche compared to 22 by the Hurricanes.
As the Avalanche had results go their way in other games, as their wild card rivals, the Wild and Coyotes, both lost this evening. The third period had huge playoff picture implications. Petr Mrazek remained solid as he made a huge save on Colin Wilson’s effort. Nathan MacKinnon hit the iron shortly thereafter as things simply weren’t going the Avalanche’s way offensively.
Conversely, the Carolina Hurricanes extended their lead to two goals with a crisp passing sequence that ended with a goal down low by the rookie Andrei Svechnikov.
The netminder Mrazek was unreal tonight as he continued to stop shot-after-shot from the Avalanche. This save with the paddle is perhaps the best of the evening.
In a bold decision by Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, he pulled Philipp Grubauer with 3:13 remaining in the game. As one would expect from such aggressive play-calling, the Hurricanes put in the empty-netter with 2:27 remaining to seal the game 3-0 for the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.
Final Thoughts Going into Next Game
Typical of the Avs’ season, they lost another game by a three-goal deficit after a big 3-0 victory last time out. It seems either the Avalanche dominate their opponent or are dominated themselves. The huge factor in this game was the Carolina Hurricanes’ netminder Petr Mrazek, who made 38 saves to earn his shutout for the visitors, earning his sixth win in as many starts.
While not technically losing ground in the playoff race tonight, the Avalanche certainly lost an opportunity to claw back into a wildcard position with a dozen games remaining.
The Avalanche have a three-day hiatus prior to their next home game against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday evening. Let’s hope they can grab four points this weekend before hitting the road after a Saint Patrick’s Day matinee against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.