The Colorado Avalanche were handed a third straight loss on Wednesday night at the hands of the West Division leading Vegas Golden Knights. The team continues to battle an identity crisis while attempting to weather the storm without the likes of Mikko Rantanen, Joonas Donskoi, Brandon Saad, and Philipp Grubauer, to name a few.
The Avs began the game behind the eight ball almost immediately as just ten seconds into the opening frame, Vegas’ William Karlsson cashed in on a bad bounce off of the skate of Samuel Girard. Girard, looking perplexed and struggling to find the puck, found himself chasing down a streaking Karlsson who lifted a backhander by Devan Dubnyk to break the ice early.
The Avs would not generate a ton of chances until late in the period when a shift by Nathan MacKinnon seemed to spark the team which lead to a Devon Toews tally to even the game up at one apiece.
The Avs would have a multitude of high-quality chances to end the period, but much like he has against the Avs all season, Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head and made some ridiculous saves.
Both teams would head to the locker room with the game tied at one.
The second period remained deadlocked at one until a lackadaisical play by Samuel Girard behind his own net lead to a penalty. On the ensuing power play, Vegas’ Max Pacioretty fired a long-range wrist shot from the half wall that was tipped twice by Avs penalty killers, fooling Dubnyk to give Vegas their second lead of the game (Vegas would not relinquish the lead again).
Vegas added another on a gritty play behind the Avs net when the Golden Knights’ captain Mark Stone took advantage of poor positioning and slow movement by Dubnyk and fired a shot off his back and into the net. This would prove to be the game winner.
Colorado added a goal late in the second from Ryan Graves and ended the period on the power play, but could not cash in on the man advantage.
Vegas seemed to completely control pace of play to begin the third and added their fourth tally of the night as Pacioretty buried an easy goal off of a two-on-one pass from Mark Stone. This play in-particular was troublesome as it appeared Dubnyk was moving in slow motion and didn’t appear to make much of an effort to stop the Pacioretty shot.
Colorado would pull the goalie with just over four minutes remaining in the period, but could not cash in and Vegas would add an insurance goal from Jonathan Marchessault to make it 5-2 for the home squad.
The Avs’ chances at winning the division and securing home-ice for is seriously beginning to dwindle. Vegas created more separation between themselves and the Avs’ in their march towards the Honda West Division’s top spot and the President’s Trophy — Colorado stayed stagnant with 66 points (in 47 games) while Vegas gained two points to sit at 72 on the season with eight games remaining in their schedule. The only silver lining of the evening was St. Louis winning in regulation 4-3 over the Wild to hold the surging Minnesota team at bay and prevent them from leapfrogging the Avs for second position.
Nathan MacKinnon extended his league-leading point streak to 15 games off of an assist on Ryan Graves’ second period goal.
Despite outshooting Vegas 37-26, the Avs could not solve Fleury in what seems to be becoming a tread in recent games against the Knights. Bounces just seemed to go Vegas’ way tonight and not Colorado’s.
Devan Dubnyk looked slow and out of place for large parts of this contest — the William Karlsson goal to open the scoring was a soft backhander that Dubnyk let right through his armpit, the Stone goal in the second was a combination of bad positioning and failure to seal the post, and his seemingly halfhearted effort to get across the crease on the second Pacioretty goal all aided in collective frustration for Avs’ faithful.
Vegas seemed to have done their homework leading up to this game as, much like St. Louis, they clogged up the neutral zone and forced Colorado to dump and chase. Bednar and Co. need to work out solutions to this stifling type of play as it’s proving difficult for an Avs squad that relies very heavily on generating speed and attacking through the neutral zone.
The return of Rantanen, Donskoi, and Grubauer this weekend cannot come soon enough as this team has looked completely out of place and seriously lacking in intensity for large stretches of the last three games. This team has some serious soul searching to do as their runway left in the season is dwindling; limping into the postseason lacking any semblance of confidence and chemistry will only spell disaster in their search to raise Lord Stanley.
The Avs head back home to face San Jose in a two-game set beginning Friday (4/30) at 7:00PM MST. The game can be found on Altitude TV and Altitude Radio 92.5AM.