As the Colorado Avalanche trudge along in their painful (both in the literal and figurative sense) five-game road trip they met a team in the Philadelphia Flyers who were suffering through their own issues including an eight-game losing streak and now a change in their head coach. This match set up as a classic trap game for the Avalanche. Fortunes were guaranteed to turn for one team on this Monday evening and it was the Avalanche grabbing the 7-5 victory.
It was a tepid start for both teams going through the motions in a lethargic pace but someone had to score eventually and the home team got on the board first from Claude Giroux at 6:02 off of some lazy board play by the Avalanche. That was just the beginning of what would be a barrage of scoring in the first period
Tyson Jost took a slashing penalty and it seemed the Avalanche were going to dig the hole deeper but instead the Avalanche scored their sixth shorthanded goal of the year at 9:56 from none of than Erik Johnson. More hard work from Logan O’Connor helped create the chance and then he set up the score.
The goal gave the Avalanche some life and Gabe Landeskog converted a rather casual rush chance at 13:13 into the Avalanche’s third goal with a perfectly placed shot over Philadelphia goaltender Martin Jones’ shoulder.
Things really started to turn up for the Avalanche when they found two consecutive goals on the power play just 26 seconds a part. First from Alex Newhook at 15:16 doing what he does best which is shoot from the slot on the man advantage. Then Cale Makar executed a beautiful end to end rush through the entirety of the Flyers’ penalty kill for what should have been the dagger goal to put Colorado up 4-1.
Not so fast said Philadelphia as Oskar Lindblom scored his first of the year at 16:28 against some more casual defense from the Avalanche’s top players. Then Giroux got his second of the game on a power player of their own two minutes later and the score ended up at 4-3 after the first 20 minutes of utterly uninspired hockey. This heat map paints a great picture on how the period went.
The second period was much more uneventful with Val Nichushkin scoring the lone goal of the frame at 1:42 to give the Avalanche some breathing room. The visitors still turned the puck over entirely too much but did find a 31-21 shot advantage after 40 minutes.
For the last 20 minutes the Avalanche tried to make it interesting by giving Cam Atkinson a goal just over two minutes in but then the Avalanche scored two of their own including Nazem Kadri’s 10th goal of the season on a 5-on-3 at 5:42 and then a Tyson Jost chip shot at 11:35. The Flyers had one more goal to deliver from Scott Laughton shorthanded with two minutes to go but it was all but over at that point. A 7-5 final for the Avalanche
This game will look wildly entertaining in the boxscore with seven goals for the Avalanche as they put up 50 shots on goal but this game was anything but fun to watch. It’s clear through this point in the season that last season’s identity of a tight team defense which limits scoring chances against has evaporated. This was another night of outscoring their problems against a team in shambles and poor goaltending.
Speaking of goaltending Justus Annunen received his first career NHL start after appearing in relief the game prior in Ottawa. Despite only saving 27 of 32 shots he picked up his first win and an assist as well on the outlet pass to Makar on his goal. It is clear however that Annunen is still adjusting to North American ice and is not quite ready for the NHL level. Goaltending as a whole needs to improve for the Avalanche and with Pavel Francouz earning a shutout in his second rehab start with the Colorado Eagles plus Darcy Kuemper improving from his own upper body injury hopefully better success in net is on the horizon.
One final game on this road trip kicks off at 5 p.m. MT at Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers on Wednesday, December 8th.