Back at Ball Arena for a quick one-game homecoming the Colorado Avalanche hosted the Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately the comforts of home didn’t treat the Avalanche as well as the road as they endured a bizarre, frustrating and sloppy seesaw affair in an ultimate 4-3 loss to the Canucks.
It wasn’t the start the Avalanche wanted when 21 seconds into the game their best players just let Ilya Mikhayev park in the slot and get a free shot on Pavel Francouz. It was a sign of things to come which wouldn’t reveal themselves until much later.
The home team had a few chances of their own including Nathan MacKinnon hitting the cross bar on a power play but came up empty until at 11:27 Mikko Rantanen continued his hot play with a goal scored right in ex-Avalanche goaltender Spencer Martin’s crease to tie the game at one.
It was the Moose who wasn’t done in the first period as he scored a power play goal to add to his and the Avalanche’s tally at 17:44. JT Compher shoveled a perfect pass to Rantanen to set up the beautiful one-timer for the 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
The following 20 minutes was a roller-coaster as it was first announced that Evan Rodrigues would not return to the game with a lower body injury as it appeared he got his skate clipped by JT Miller. Then Connor Garland scored goal which was called back after Jared Bednar challenged for goaltender interference and won. However, the Canucks got a goal not long after from Bo Horvat at 10:34 and the game was tied at two each.
But the fireworks weren’t over as Mikko Rantanen took a brutal high stick in the nose from Tyler Myers and the Avalanche received a four minute power play but Rantanen went missing for repairs until into the third period. Not much was happening on the man advantage until a second penalty was called and then Cale Makar took care of business on the 5-on-3 at 15:59 with a lethal wrist shot. Miraculously the Avalanche escaped the second period with a 3-2 lead but weren’t unscathed.
Somehow the third period went even worse with ex-Avalanche Sheldon Dries scoring the tying goal right after a power play expired at 5:07. The Avalanche were hoping to get back ahead with their own crack at a third period power play but Cale Makar was called for interference and erased the advantage. To make matters worse the Canucks scored on that 4-on-4 from Ethan Bear at 12:00 and the Avalanche were officially out of luck when Vancouver held on for a 4-3 victory.
Oskar Olausson made his NHL debut and played just over seven minutes. His ice time was greatly reduced with the missing players and overall chaos of the game. He generally showed the NHL quality skill set he possesses and also his young age at 20-years old. The showing was encouraging enough to keep giving Olausson more chances, though.
Giving up a goal on the opening shift of the game was unfortunately a sign of things to come as the top Avalanche players were uncharacteristically off their games. Cale Makar and Devon Toews each made some defensive mistakes that led to goals against. A lot of questionable calls were handed out by the officials and the Avalanche might have hit five goal posts in addition to loose pucks which found their way into Spencer Martin’s crease. This game could have turned out much differently and especially if everyone was able to stay on the ice. Still, bad play was just not enough to overcome bad bounces and calls and the loss was deserved.
Bednar did not have much update on Rodrigues after the game saying he needs further evaluation. After getting Sam Girard back in the lineup following his two-week absence the Avalanche just can’t make any headway with the health of this team. Thankfully Rantanen was ok enough to return which would have decimated the top six forward core if he remained out. Maybe the injury bug will go away eventually.
The start of a holiday weekend back-to-back at the home of the Nashville Predators at noon MT on Friday.