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Colorado Avalanche lose in a desert shootout, 5-4 versus the Arizona Coyotes

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Colorado and Arizona slug it out in a game featuring two backup goaltenders, a milestone goal and lots of questionable referee decisions.

Colorado Avalanche v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche would come into tonight’s contest red-hot, but got their jets cooled by the Arizona Coyotes in a 5-4 shootout loss. It would be a rough night for goaltenders, as both Colorado and Arizona started backups. Jonas Johansson would make his first start for Colorado, and despite a really rough start, would play decently enough to give Colorado a chance to win.

Nathan MacKinnon would have a high-event game; involved in an incident that will be replayed and discussed throughout the rest of the week as well as scoring his 200th career NHL goal.

Pregame

The Avalanche came into tonight’s matchup with Arizona on the back of an eight game winning streak after dominating the Coyotes 5-1 in the first game of the back-to-back at Gila River Arena.

With less than 24 hours between the end of last night’s game and puck drop tonight, Johansson gets his first start for the Avalanche. Adding to the changes for Colorado, JT Compher and Bowen Byram were both scratched. In their place, Dan Renouf and Logan O’Connor rejoin the Avalanche for tonight’s contest.

Arizona had to make a few changes as well, with both goaltender Antti Raanta and defender Niklas Hjalmarsson both sent to IR. To replace Raanta, the Coyotes recalled Adin Hill for tonight’s start while Jason Demers would take Hjalmarsson’s slot in the Arizona defense.

First Period

The Avalanche would have an absolute disaster start in front of Johansson. The first shot of the game would find the back of the net from Jakob Chychrun.

The Avalanche wouldn’t waste much time giving up a second goal. This time, Johansson couldn’t do a thing, as the first line and top pair would leave him helpless to stop a cross-crease one-timer from Alex Goligoski to stake the Coyotes to an early two goal lead, having taken only three shots on goal to this point.

This seems to be part of a worrying trend for Colorado of getting off to horribly slow starts when Philipp Grubauer isn’t between the pipes. Not only would the Avalanche find themselves down two goals before five minutes could tick off of the clock, they were spending most of that time pinned into their own defensive zone. This would extend to nearly halfway through the first period, as Colorado would go over NINE minutes without putting a shot on goal.

A decent chance from Jost that hopped over his stick to prevent him from taking advantage of a nearly open net and a solid shift from the Nazem Kadri line would start to tilt the ice back in Colorado’s favor. The pressure would result in Chychrun taking a tripping penalty and putting Colorado on a crucial power play.

It wouldn’t take long for the Avalanche to convert with a goal from the captain, Gabriel Landeskog.

Landeskog’s tenth goal of the season got the Avalanche back into the contest, but an unlucky Jost high-sticking penalty would threaten to hand the momentum back to Arizona almost instantly. Fortunately for the Avalanche, their penalty kill was up to the task, denying the Coyotes a chance to recapture momentum.

Colorado would close out the period in style, with Mikko Rantanen’s hot hand reaching a volcanic level, burying a ridiculous Nathan MacKinnon backhand pass into the top corner to tie the game up with less than two minutes left in the period.

The period would end knotted at two. Despite the slow start, Colorado still out-shot Arizona 11-8 in the period.

Second Period

After an exciting first period, the second frame of the contest would slow the game down and put a highlight on the NHL’s referees.

During the second period, news came out of Nashville about a referee getting caught on a hot mic admitting to wanting to give a makeup call.

**WARNING** NSFW - LANGUAGE

Now, generally news from another game wouldn’t occur in a game recap, but this happened.

While there is no debating the four minute double minor on MacKinnon, there was no call on Chychrun lunging into the path of MacKinnon and causing the collision. This would put Arizona on a huge man-advantage in a tied game. Fortunately for Arizona, Chychrun would return to play later in the game.

The Avalanche penalty kill would step up and show why it is one of the best in the league. Not only did Colorado kill the penalty, but Arizona spent most of their power play getting stood up at the blue-line. Johansson made two nice saves to keep the game tied.

Soon after the penalty was killed, there was a hit on Brandon Saad at mid-ice that cause him to skate gingerly to the bench. Thankfully, Saad would return later in the period. Then the Avalanche would go right back on the penalty kill, with Renouf taking a tripping call.

Colorado would kill off the Renouf penalty as well, looking to head to intermission tied after an ugly period with lots of hitting and pucks pinned into corners. MacKinnon would have other ideas, scoring from the high slot with less than 12 seconds left in the frame.

The tally would be number 200 for the Avalanche’s super-star center and bring the period to an end with Colorado up a goal on the scoreboard. The Coyotes would out-shoot the Avalanche this period 11-10.

Third Period

The final frame of the contest started off with a lot of neutral zone action until Garland put the Avalanche on the power play three minutes into the period. While the Colorado power play would generate a few chances, Arizona kills off the penalty. This would prove to spark the Coyotes, as they would score back-to-back goals within a minute and ten seconds of each other.

Johansson doesn’t cover himself in glory on either goal, but the Avalanche defense could’ve done a much better job controlling the rebounds given up, especially on the Phil Kessel goal.

Arizona played much better in the third period and forced the Avalanche to spend a lot of time in their defensive zone for the middle ten minutes of the third. Colorado would get a break from all of the pressure at 3:47 left in the game when Johan Larsson high-sticks Jacob MacDonald to put Colorado on a late power play. Unfortunately, the Avalanche power play cannot convert. A strong shift from the Jost line would generate a couple more chances before the end of regulation, but none find the net. Overtime it is.

Overtime

The Avalanche start with a nice chance created by Nichushkin and MacKinnon, but the refs blow a quick whistle while the puck is still loose to deny the scoring chance for Colorado. A turnover after the ensuing faceoff would lead to a Kessel breakaway on Johansson, but the newest Avalanche goaltender makes his best save of the night to deny Kessel.

A slash on Schmaltz would give the Avalanche a golden opportunity to end overtime, but Hill also saved his best of the night to keep the game going. Colorado was relentless throughout the power play, but Hill was up to the task and this game would be decided by a shoot out. It would be the first shoot out of the season for Colorado.

The Coyotes would score with all three of their shootout attempts to take the victory. Joonas Donskoi would score with his attempt, but MacKinnon would sail his shot high and wide to send Colorado into their day off with a single point.

Statistics

Shots - COL 39 - ARI 32
Power Play Conversion - COL 1/5 - ARI 0/4
Faceoff % - COL 48 - ARI 52
Blocked Shots - COL 10 - ARI 19
Takeaways - COL 3 - ARI 3
Giveaways - COL 4 - ARI 12
Hits - COL 25 - ARI 35

Takeaways

Colorado came out flat tonight and paid for it, giving up two goals on their first three shots. It was looking an awful lot like the Anaheim game where Hunter Miska was pulled after a period, but Johansson settled down and performed decently. The Avalanche goaltender made a few key stops down the stretch and got little help from his defense on three of the four Arizona goals.

As much as nobody wants to talk about the refs after a game, tonight it is unavoidable. Even if you take away the missed call on the Chychrun/MacKinnon event, the referees missed multiple penalties against the Avalanche tonight. With the two big events occurring tonight (the Nashville “makeup” call and the MacKinnon incident) in the NHL, the league is going to have to answer for their referees after tonight. While the referees generally don’t win or lose games for teams; tonight they had an outsized impact on the game that could’ve ended with multiple players injured on both sides.

Makar and Toews had a rough night at the back end tonight, combining for a minus-five rating. The second Arizona goal in particular looked bad for the pair. Makar looked a step slower than usual tonight, although playing a team high 26:32 is a likely factor. With coach Jared Bednar only trusting Renouf to be on the ice for a little over seven minutes; Girard, Makar and Toews all played over 24 minutes. These three have all been playing huge minutes and tomorrow’s day off should do them well. Hopefully, the day off will also allow Byram to return to the lineup for a huge upcoming series against Vegas.

Upcoming

The Avalanche (20-8-3; 43 points) will be off tomorrow and return to Ball Arena to take on the Vegas Golden Knights (22-7-1; 45 points). It looks to be a key series and a bit of a measuring stick for both teams as they sit atop the Honda West division. Grubauer will likely return to start both games of the set against the Golden Knights and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Arizona (14-14-5; 33 points) will be off two days before they take on the San Jose Sharks (12-14-4; 28 points) on Friday at the Gila River Arena.