Hockey is very much the opposite of your typical stick-and-ball sports in terms of time layout. But yet, for the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night, it was a tale of two halves.
The Avs fell behind early, surged on late, but then ended up on the losing side in the end to the Winnipeg Jets, who got the win 4-3 in OT. Neal Pionk was the hero for the Jets as he scored twice, including the OT winner which sealed Colorado’s fate.
The Jets came out of the gates quickly, getting on the front foot and testing Alexandar Georgiev with some chances. They would get a good chance when Sam Girard took a tripping penalty, and Sam Ganger punched home a rebound to take the lead.
Things didn’t get much better for the Avs as they could not control the puck or move it well. They found themselves turning it over in the neutral zone and barely getting any offensive zone time. They only had two shots on goal midway through the period, and it didn’t get better despite a spurt of activity in the middle of the period from the Avs offense.
Martin Kaut and Cole Perfetti both sat in the box for matching roughing minors. It was an awkward one, as Kaut was not facilitating much of the pushing and shoving compared to Perfetti. Regardless, the extra ice during 4-on-4 play led to Pionk’s first goal breaking in down low to double the lead heading into the break.
The Avs got going quickly out of the room, as Mikko Rantanen would finish off a dominant shift. Right in front of Connor Hellebuyck, he put it home and cut the lead to one.
Erik Johnson then almost tied it up moments later as he broke in between the circles. It seemed as if destiny was favoring the Avs as they managed to kill off a penalty from Josh Manson - a rare sight nowadays from the league’s worst team on the PK. However, it didn’t help them as Cole Perfetti finished off a nice passing play for Winnipeg to extend the lead.
It was again caused by turnovers from Colorado’s own doing, and it was haunting them. Winnipeg continued to push the issue and it seemed as if things could get out of hand. However, Rantanen had other ideas as he again finished off a dominant shift from the first line to once again cut the lead down to just one.
Just a couple of minutes later, the Avs got a golden chance to tie it up as Mason Appleton hooked J.T. Compher. They took their chance wisely, as Rantanen was involved once again. He was just a provider this time around, but he fed a nice pass right between the circles to Valeri Nichushkin to make things even heading into the final 20 minutes.
Colorado seemed to have the advantage as chances from Artturi Lehkonen and Erik Jonhson were squandered. There was also a scare for the Avs as Devon Toews only took a few shifts before heading back to the locker room.
Toews would later return and be key to several chances the Avalance had. However, more chances from Lehkonen and MacKinnon simply could not find the back of the net behind Hellebuyck. For the first time for both teams this season, they took a point from the game and headed to the extra frame.
Despite winning the faceoff, MacKinnon would give the puck away after a Rantanen shot found the glass. It led Pionk on the other way to beat Georgiev for the game-winner just 31 seconds into overtime.
The Avs were simply not good enough for the entire 60 minutes. They lagged behind early, and it caught up to them in the end. The puck movement was not there, they looked slow and choppy, and even outnumbered by the Jets at times.
Part of this “not being good enough” mantra was certainly the shake-up of lines Jared Bednar put out there. The debuts of Martin Kaut and Anton Blidh left a lot to be desired, as did the performances of the entire team. Kaut did have some chances late on in the third to take the lead from the slot but all missed the net. In those crucial times, it’d be important for him to step up and take those chances wisely.
One of the positives of the game was the dominance of the first line. They continued to show their power, scoring all three of the goals for the Avs. There’s not much to be concerned about there at all. Another would be the face-offs, as the Avs won in that department with a 54% winning percentage. Oh, and the Avalanche took a point out of this game, which most people would take after starting off the game on the wrong foot.
The Avs play their final home game for three weeks as they host the Seattle Kraken for the second time ever at Ball Arena Friday night. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. MT.