For the 13th time this season, the Colorado Avalanche lost in overtime. Duncan Keith raced down the left wing past Nathan MacKinnon, crashed the net (and the goalie) hard, and deposited the winner past Philipp Grubauer with 3:37 left to play in the 3-on-3 session to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 win on Sunday evening.
The two teams played each other for the second day in a row, with Saturday’s contest played in Denver, and the jet lag showed. It was slow, ugly hockey, and through the first period all the Avalanche had to show for it was a Sven Andrighetto shot that hit the post.
Both Corey Crawford and Grubauer were excellent, while the two teams’ offenses were discernibly not, especially with the final playoff spot in the Western Conference at stake. These home-road back-to-backs might work for two geographically close teams in the east, but it’s less than ideal for two Western teams 1,000 miles apart.
Opportunity finally presented itself for the Avalanche late in the second period, when Gabriel Bourque and Tyson Barrie drew penalties to give Colorado a 5-on-3. With Mikko Rantanen joining Gabriel Landeskog on the injury list, the power play lines were different than normal, but Colorado sustained pressure nonetheless.
After cycling the puck on the perimeter, MacKinnon teed up Barrie for a blast to give Colorado a 1-0 lead with 4:34 to play in the second period. Upon further review, Alexander Kerfoot deflected the slap shot to earn his 12th goal of the year.
In the third period, Chicago responded with a power play goal of its own after a carry-over on a questionable Derick Brassard boarding penalty.
After Colorado lost a defensive-zone faceoff, Artem Anisimov deflected a Brent Seabrook shot from the blue line and Chicago tied the game 1-1 in the very final second of the man advantage.
The Blackhawks’ desperation showed late in the third, but Grubauer willed the Avalanche to overtime with some tremendous tending of the goal.
In 11 appearances since February 11, Grubauer has allowed two goals or fewer in all 11 games. Prior to that, Grubauer had allowed three or more goals in 13 of his first 22 games as an Av.
But not so shockingly, the Avalanche blew it early in overtime. MacKinnon was caught on the ice for an extended shift, and credit to Keith for noticing that, because it’s the only scenario in which the 35-year-old could out-skate MacKinnon. Keith scored his sixth goal of the year and Colorado dropped the game, 3-2.
Colorado now has a two-point lead on both Minnesota and Arizona for the final playoff spot, and they’re now one point behind Dallas for the first wild card spot. Despite Sunday’s loss, the Avalanche are in a way better playoff position than could have been imagined a month ago.
Four of Colorado’s last six games are at the Pepsi Center, starting with games against the Vegas Golden Knights and the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday and Friday.
The Avalanche have split their two meetings with Vegas so far this year, with each team winning on home ice.