The Colorado Avalanche fell to the Minnesota Wild 6-2 at Ball Arena Wednesday night. This game fell in and out of the hands of the Avs tonight, with momentum seemingly flipping back and forth between the Avalanche and the Wild all night, but the Wild took advantage of when they had the momentum.
An early penalty by Mikko Rantanen set the Wild up for success, and despite not scoring on the man advantage, a Mats Zuccarello tally on a 3-on-1 chance opened the scoring for the Wild. This set the standard for the remainder of the period, as the Avalanche were caught chasing all period, with the only positives coming out of a post-ringing wrister from Nazem Kadri, and a slot shot by Valeri Nichushkin, that was stuffed by the pad of Kaapo Kahkonen. The Avalanche struggled to even obtain the puck through the middle parts of the period, and the Avs looked to translate the late period push into a solid second period. Defenseman Ryan Graves spoke with Altitude’s Lauren Jbara after the first period. “If we just play simple and straightforward, and get it [the puck] into their end to start wearing them down, it’ll slant the ice in our favor.”
The Avalanche went out and did just that, controlling the pace of play, and keeping the puck in the Wild zone. After not converting on a couple of powerplay chances, the Avs finally converted on a breakout play, where after a couple of passes, J.T Compher finished the play, a much needed strike for the former Michigan Wolverine. The Avs seemingly let the foot off the pedal after the goal, as the Wild were able to push back after not recording a shot 13 minutes into the period, and after some sustained zone pressure, Zach Parise would tip home his 800th career point to give Minnesota the lead back. The Wild would go on the powerplay shortly after this goal, but lost it with a penalty of their own 19 seconds into the man-advantage. No goals would come as a result of 4-on-4 action, but the Avs couldn’t get the puck out of their own zone. After an Avalanche faceoff win, Bowen Byram lost a puck battle going into the corner, and the referee screened Kadri, preventing him from covering the centering feed from Ryan Hartman,and Marcus Foligno would clap home a shot from the high slot. A deflating goal to allow for the Avs, who would go into the third period down a pair.
The Avalanche would get a powerplay early in the third stanza, and Nazem Kadri would finish a one-time feed from Mikko Rantanen to cut the lead in half, but the grass would never get greener from that point on. Kirill Kaprizov made a spinning pass to set up Ryan Hartman for a greasy goal, Nico Sturm would collect a breakaway tally, as well as an empty netter, and before the Avs knew it they were losing 6-2. This is the first time this season the Avs lost back to back games.
This game hurts the Avs in many ways. The Wild have leapfrogged the Avs in the standings, the Los Angeles Kings extend their win streak to six against the St. Louis Blues tonight, and the Arizona Coyotes rallied from down 3-0 to beat the Anaheim Ducks in the shootout 4-3, and the Avs now find themselves in 6th place in a competitive West Division. This game was Colorado’s worst effort since opening night, and the inconsistencies are oozing from every line.
Conor Timmins was benched tonight, not logging a shift in the second half of the game until late, when the game was already out of hand. Head Coach Jared Bednar commented on the pair of young defensemen, (Timmins and Byram) in his post game press conference.
“There has to be a limit... If they give up goals like that, then you’re not going to win many games...You expect some growing pains, and some nights they’re good, and even great, but tonight was on the poor side, and they have to be better”.
On a positive note, the re-structured third line of Andre Burakovsky, J.T. Compher, and Valeri Nichushkin, drew praise from Bednar.
“Tonight they went to work...The work has to come first. It’s a tough league, and I can say those three guys went on the ice, they outworked their opponents, and they were our best line tonight”.
The Avs will look to get back on track on Friday, in the first of a back-to-back set against the Arizona Coyotes, a team that they haven’t seen since the Edmonton bubble. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM MST.