After another extended break filled with terrible injury updates the Colorado Avalanche headed to the Pacific Northwest in hopes of keeping their recent momentum alive against the hapless Vancouver Canucks. After a quick start the Avalanche took half of the game off before finding enough firepower to get the job done and seal a 4-2 victory.
It was the visitors who got on the board first thanks to a Mikko Rantanen power play goal at 7:17. The initial half of the first frame had the Avalanche in full control and were outshooting Vancouver 9-1 at one point and had the home team in turmoil on the ropes. As we’ve seen far too often in this season the Avalanche just stopped working and made a series of bonehead errors which put the Canucks back in the game as evidenced by 12 shots a piece by the end of the first period.
The second period did not go much better, in fact Vancouver were the only team to score in the frame when Conor Garland took advantage of a complete breakdown of defensive coverage at 8:52 to even the score. Vancouver earned a 15-7 shot advantage that period and the Avalanche were lucky that their netminder Darcy Kuemper stood tall and only let in one goal up to that point.
When the third period began the Avalanche desperately needed to get the next score and the exact opposite of that happened. After doing his best brick wall impression through 40 minutes Kuemper let a shot from Tucker Poolman at 1:30 leak through him and deflected into the back of the net as he dove backwards to swat it away. Now Vancouver had the 2-1 advantage.
That could have been the dagger to send the Avalanche packing but the league’s worst penalty kill decided to show up. Nazem Kadri made quick work of depositing a rebound on the power play at 2:19 and thwarted the Canucks’ lead. JT Miller got angry and cross-checked Kadri into the goal post but the referees decided that in the ensuing scrum both Miller and Rantanen were culpable for roughing against each other.
To get the 4v4 started Sam Girard smoked Quinn Hughes behind the net. This angered Hughes and he broke his stick on a retaliation cross-check against Girard at the other end of the ice. That penalty was called and the Avalanche made their opponent pay on the 4v3 when Cale Makar scored from the left circle at 3:12. Implosion complete and now the Avalanche just had to hold the lead for the rest of the period.
It was a better effort as the Avalanche got back in the driver’s seat and mitigated some continued sloppy play with at least a sense of urgency to close the game out. Gabe Landeskog, who endured quite a rough night of his own, got the empty net goal from a Rantanen steal and secured a 4-2 final in Colorado’s favor.
The lineup roulette on a night-to-night basis certainly isn’t helping the Avalanche find consistent performances but their focus, execution and work ethic has suffered far too much from game-to-game for it to not be a glaring red flag. Pulling this victory out will look good in the box score but to essentially spend half the game trying give away two points to a team looking for any excuse to fire everybody just is not a good look or offer much confidence that their issues are getting solved moving forward.
One bright spot continues to be Nazem Kadri who continued his point streak to seven with his third three-point effort this season. Kadri is looking much more engaged on both ends of the ice plus confidence with the puck especially after enjoying some scoring success. He is now leading the team in scoring with 17 points, which is over halfway to the 32 points he scored in the entire 2020-21 season.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel fit in fine for the most part as his forechecking and puck pursuit was welcome in the bottom six forwards. He had some inconsistent moments and a few turnovers particularly in the second period with the rest of the team but ended on a high note on a line with Kadri to close out the game. Aube-Kubel finished with just over 10 minutes of ice time, one shot on goal, three hits, one goal against and one (pretty cheap) penalty. Something to build off anyway since the Avalanche injury woes and lack of forward depth should earn him a long look.
The road trip concludes with a first ever meeting with the Seattle Kraken at their barn on Friday, November 19 at 8pm MT exclusively on ESPN+.