Tonight’s game featured two contenders both in search of some early season momentum to help turn their slow starts around. The Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights have also both endured their share of adversity with players missing in the lineup but have to push through and bank points regardless of who is available. These reasons are why this game felt more important than any single game in October of a long season should, Unfortunately the Avalanche could only manage scoring one goal and fell 3-1 to Vegas and a 2-4 record on the year.
A slow starts is exactly what they Avalanche didn’t need when they conceded the game’s first goal. Chandler Stephenson got on the board for Vegas just two minutes into the game when he took advantage of more poor defensive play from Kurtis MacDermid who could not clear the slot. With Sam Girard ailing from the hit he suffered against Tampa Bay and out of the night’s lineup, the Avalanche needed all hands on deck and the last thing they wanted was an early deficit to climb out of.
That wasn’t all the adversity the home team faced in this period as the Avalanche gave up a shorthanded goal on their second power play. JT Compher didn’t stay with his man after a Cale Makar blue line turnover and then Reilly Smith converted at 9:37 for a two goal Vegas lead despite the Avalanche holding the 2-1 advantage in power plays and even up in shots that first period.
The Avalanche fought back in the second period and finally got rewarded when Cale Makar scored his first (official) goal of the season late in the second period at 19:23. Although it was due to a 4v4 and with Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson kicked out of the game for an interference penalty on Keegan Kolesar, the score gave the Avalanche some much needed life and a chance going into the third period with the score cut to just 2-1 for Vegas.
Despite the Avalanche clawing back to a 10-9 shot, a 61% Cori For and 68% expected goals advantage in the third period they just could not convert a second goal and tie the game. Vegas got an empty net goal from Kolesar with 30 seconds to go which secured the victory and the Avalanche were left empty handed in a 3-1 loss.
Better days are ahead even if it hurts right now. Bowen Byram is coming into his own and played the most minutes of the game tied with Cale Makar at 26:07 and held the edge on the team of 22:35 at even strength. Byram earned an assist Makar’s goal for his fifth point of the season in six games, which have all come at even strength as well. Obviously part of the reason for the minutes available was due to a lot of catch up time, Sam Girard’s injury and then Jack Johnson was tossed out of the game but Byram has made it clear he belongs and is a difference maker. If there is any positive to take out of six games this far is that Byram is ready to take the next step as a key member of this team.
20-year-old D Bowen Byram played 26:07 tonight. "It's hard to keep him off the ice when he's playing like that," Bednar said.— Kate Shefte (@KateShefte) October 27, 2021
The power play was once again a disappointment and did not help turn around the game for the Avalanche despite getting a couple opportunities on the man advantage. Giving up that shorthanded goal in the first period felt like the dagger with a lot of game left to play because the Avalanche have been so poor on their own power play to start the year. A lot of different players in and out of the lineup hasn’t helped but the main characters were all available tonight and couldn’t help make a difference.
The Avalanche are not used to playing from behind and with the loss in depth at forward it is more difficult to score goals at this juncture. They just simply can’t get behind early in games and that is exactly what is happening. A tepid power play has added to the futility which has set up the Avalanche to have to fight for victories more than ever before.
A quick one-game road trip to meet the St. Louis Blues at 6pm MT on Thursday, October 28th.