One final game needed completion before the Colorado Avalanche could depart on their own version of spring break. Enter a familiar foe, the Arizona Coyotes who despite their record at the bottom of the standings gave the Avalanche a tough test at Ball Arena a couple weeks ago. Another shootout ensued in this contest but the Avalanche could not find the key goals when it mattered and fell 3-2 to Arizona. All good things must come to and end as both the 18-game home winning streak and the 10-game streak overall were snapped.
Although there were no goals in the first period of this game there certainly were penalties. Six separate minor infractions were called culminating with the Avalanche receiving a lengthy 5-on-3 to end the period. Sensing the urgency of the moment head coach Jared Bednar called his timeout to setup his power play unit for this turning point but they failed to convert.
After a scoreless first period Nazem Kadri got the Avalanche on the board at 2:42 into the second frame as he outwaited Arizona netminder Scott Wedgewood in very similar fashion to what Rantanen did against Chicago last week. Kadri again determined to make an impact in the absence of Nathan MacKinnon restored a sense of normalcy for the team.
Unfortunately that momentum would not last as Alex Galchenyuk got the Coyotes on the board and scored his first goal of the season through a screen at 12:54. Arizona had generated several good chances up to that point and finally converted.
After a few tense minutes Mikko Rantanen grabbed the momentum back for the Avalanche with just under a minute to go in the period on a fantastic pass from Andre Burakovsky and an even better finish. The second frame ended with a 2-1 lead for the home team.
The Avalanche took care of business for the most part in the third period but could not get the crucial insurance goal. Devon Toews got a breakaway late in the period but hit the post and was an indicator that it just wasn’t the Avalanche’s night. Arizona converted with the extra attacker at 19:22 on a backhand at the net front from Lawson Crouse who had been their best player the entire night and was going to cash in eventually with enough chances. If the Avalanche were looking at trade targets from Arizona it should be Crouse who ends up on the wish list with his Val Nichushkin-like performance.
To overtime the Avalanche would go again with the score knotted at two apiece and there they continued to play with fire. Nichushkin took a tripping penalty and the Avalanche spent the remainder of the extra frame killing it off. Another shootout with Arizona ensued just like their last meeting at Ball Arena. Unfortunately the same result as that night would not occur as Galchenyuk got another puck past Kuemper and the Avalanche did not respond with their own tally. A 3-2 final for Arizona as the Avalanche taste defeat for the first time in three weeks.
Failure to convert on the first period 5-on-3 came back to haunt the Avalanche and executing better on critical power plays is one area to focus on moving forward. The penalty kill does continue to look improved and is one reason why the Avalanche enjoyed the winning streak they were on. Tightening up both units should remain a priority in the second half of the season.
Mikko Rantanen has been very consistent this season and scored his 24th goal this evening. It is a shame he cannot get recognition as an All-Star this year despite currently sitting at sixth in the league in points and leading the Avalanche in goals. The type of skilled plays he makes on a nightly basis get lost in the storylines which have been Cale Makar and Nazem Kadri this season but Rantanen has been just as critical to the team’s success thus far.
With 68 points through 44 games it has been a remarkable first half for the Avalanche. The winning streaks were bound to end at some point and perhaps a moment of reflection and refocus during the break could do the team some good. The second portion of the season will be grind of a schedule but also an opportunity to fine-tune for the playoffs as everyone knows that’s when this team will either answer or reinforce their doubters. Still, there’s a lot to enjoy in this moment as the Avalanche have earned every bit of their advantageous position in the standings.
A much needed and deserved eight days of rest and then the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town for the first of seven rescheduled games from December. Puck drop is at 7pm MT on Thursday, February 10th.