The Colorado Avalanche embarked on as tough of a two-game road trip with nearly everything postseason related clinched one could have but faced division rival Minnesota Wild in a late March showdown. Unfortunately the Wild took this one 3-2 on an overtime power play.
The teams traded fruitless power plays in a cautious and low event first period. The Avalanche held the 14-8 shot advantage but needed to find more threatening looks at the net. The second period built on the first but the Avalanche started finding some traction.
On the second power play the Wild received near the end of the second period it was Minnesota who cashed in for the game’s first score. Kirill Kaprizov found an opening and inserted the puck past Darcy Kuemper at 18:07. The game felt like a fairly even match but the Avalanche were nudging ahead in possession with 55 percent Corsi For and an even greater advantage in shots 28-14. A big third period was needed to turn the game around.
The Avalanche did just that finding their first goal at 6:21 on a laser from Nazem Kadri on a deft faceoff play to tie the game at one a piece. Then, the most anticipated fight of the game occurred after Mikko Rantanen got a shoulder square in the jaw from Matt Dumba has he entered the offensive zone. No it wasn’t Kurtis MacDermid taking care of business but rather Nathan MacKinnon taking exception of the uncalled hit from Dumba and challenged him to a fight.
Another disappointing power play like the one they had to open the third period would have been unacceptable if the Avalanche didn’t cash in. Maybe because MacKinnon was in the box it forced some new thinking on the man advantage but they took advantage of Minnesota goaltender Cam Tabot on another faceoff play as Mikko Rantanen rifled the puck into the net and gave the Avalanche the lead with just under 10 minutes to go.
That lead only lasted until 14:33 when Ryan Hartman got the Wild back on the board after he was the recipient of a puck the Avalanche couldn’t clear out of the defensive zone. The Avalanche needed to force overtime at this point and regroup.
Erik Johnson took a cross checking penalty against Tyson Jost with under 30 seconds to go. The Avalanche did well to hold the Wild off long enough to grab a standings point especially with Kaprizov hitting the post in the final seconds. Overtime did not last long as Kevin Fiala secured the extra point and the victory with a shot on the 4-on-3 just 15 seconds into the frame. At times well-played, at times frustrating and the Avalanche lost the game with a 3-2 final score.
It is true the Avalanche are playing shorthanded without some of their more dynamic threats in the lineup. Full health is never a guarantee however and plenty of firepower still remains. Without Samuel Girard in particular the team’s threat level at 5-on-5 has diminished. Erik Johnson has seen his role finished and still took two costly minor penalties.
Artturi Lehkonen still had not been cleared by immigration and has not played a game for the Avalanche. He is at least skating and traveling with the team but no word on when he can get into a game. Lehkonen should help provide some spark on offense when he does enter so there is that to look forward to. Bowen Byram is also on the trip and his return could come sooner than later.
The second half of the trip visiting the Calgary Flames at 7:00 p.m. MT on Tuesday.