After a thrilling overtime victory on Friday night the Colorado Avalanche were back for another game in Anaheim to close out their first road trip. The same type of grind seen on Friday night took over this game and the Ducks who were outshot 33-15 held on for a 3-1 win which now drops the Avalanche to 3-3-0 on the year.
The Avalanche were ready right out of the gate as they executed a number of beautiful plays resulting in multiple hit posts. It was the home team though who got on the board just one minute into the first period and took a 1-0 lead. Right off of a face-off the puck went straight to Jakob Silfverberg and he fired it past Philipp Grubauer before any defending could occur.
Momentum shifted in the second period unfortunately and then some poor defensive coverage from Nazem Kadri in particular led to the Ducks adding to the lead. Rickard Rakell cut to the front of the net and converted at 9:05 which ended up standing as the game winning goal. The Avalanche were given a chance on their third power play of the evening but could not respond to close out the period.
Finally in the third period the Avalanche broke through and the top line suddenly cashed in on one of the many chances they were creating when Mikko Rantanen deposited a rebound at 14:46 off of a Nathan MacKinnon shot. The tally was Rantanen’s fifth of the year already and continues his five game goal streak as well.
Any hope dissolved quickly however when Gabe Landeskog took a questionable penalty immediately after. Though the Ducks did not score on their power play the clock and momentum had evaporated by that point. Anaheim put their third goal in an empty net for a 3-1 final score, which was also their only shot on goal of the period.
Anaheim goaltender John Gibson was fantastic in this game and was also helped out by the post several times. An early lead helped Anaheim lock it down and withstand those chances from Colorado’s top players. It was the same story as before from the rest of the forward lines with ineffective play and a lack of strength on the puck leading to constant turnovers. Energy and battle level felt higher for the team as a whole but it wasn’t enough. Bednar basically rode the top players because nobody else was going but they could only create one goal. Predictably the power play dried up too, going 0-4 on the evening. Execution is very disjointed right now and some other players need to pick up the slack.
Bowen Byram played a top-four role on defense in this game partly due to Ryan Graves receiving a scratch and did not disappoint. Byram played 18:32 including a shift on the power play and in the 6-on-5 empty net situation. It’s clear he is still getting comfortable with the defensive zone systems but has passed the puck well and his breakout was what began the play which led to Rantanen’s goal. Byram has been electric in the offensive zone and put up two shots on goal with a 58.82% Corsi For and 56.11% expected goals in this game. With three of Byram’s allowed six games now in the books the decision will loom by the end of the week before his seventh game to burn the first year of his entry level contract. It appears the Avalanche have already decided to commit to him with an increased role in each game he’s played thus far but it’s a wonder until it happens. Byram will learn a lot in the NHL but has held his own and is helping the Avalanche score goals in the process. He belongs and his trajectory over the year should be fun to watch.
Injuries are another thing to keep an eye on as Andre Burakovsky returned from the upper body ailment he was dealing with this week yet he looked very ineffective and only played 13 minutes in this contest. How much longer will Erik Johnson need to sit for conditioning and if he is inserted into the lineup how does that impact the defensive core? The biggest question perhaps is what will become of Pavel Francouz’s absence and if the team will need to rely on Hunter Miska in the coming week.
Finally back at home on Tuesday, January 26th to open a two-game set with the San Jose Sharks at 7pm MT.