The Colorado Avalanche experienced what a loss feels like. For the first time since March 27 against the Minnesota Wild, the Avs lost and couldn’t get past the Washington Capitals. They feel on home ice 3-2 to end the homestand. It’s their first regulation loss since March 23 against the Vancouver Canucks, also on home ice.
The Caps are the only team to not give the Avalanche any points this season, beating them in both games in regulation. So if truth be told, maybe let’s not face the Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final?
The Avs came out of the gate stumbling. They couldn't corral the puck in any three zones to start off. It led to a bad Jack Johnson turnover on his blue line to let Garnet Hathaway in. He took his chance beating Darcy Kuemper bar-down to take the lead.
The Avs got into a better groove going forward, with Cale Makar shooting one just wide from the slot after Nathan MacKinnon was hooked by Justin Schultz, which lead to an uneventful power play. The Caps continued to hurry the Avs, clogging up the neutral zone and creating havoc with their forecheck.
The Avs, specifically Kurtis MacDermid, created havoc himself running over Tom Wilson a couple of times in the period. It was odd to see them not drop the gloves later on in the game. However, another big man on the Avs by the name of Valeri Nichushkin would get them level with this dandy wrist shot.
The Avs came out much better to start the period. Artturi Lehkonen and Andre Burakovsky each had their chances in the opening minutes swirl wide of the net. It called for great action from both sides as the Caps responded with an offense of their own.
The period was fast-moving and created plenty of action and chances. But only one goal would be scored in the frame. It came in the form of Alex Ovechkin, who found the loose puck in the blue paint behind Kuemper for his 778th career goal and a 2-1 lead for the Caps.
The start of the period was clunky, as neither team could control the puck for very long and create chances or momentum for their side. The Avs missed out on a big chance when Nicolas Aube-Kubel couldn't control the puck and get a clear breakaway chance.
Finally, the Avs broke through as Lehkonen was able to push the puck home along with the pad of Ilya Samsonov. The Caps would challenge the play for goaltender interference, but the call would stand and we had a tie game for the final 11:47 of the period.
However, the lead would only last for a few minutes. Johnson caused another horrific turnover with a failed cross-ice pass from his own corner. It led for the Caps to have a 2-on-1 and have Marcus Johansson finish top shelf to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead.
Kuemper would do his best to keep the Avs in it as he stopped Anthony Mantha on the breakaway, flashing his glove in style. The Avs tried their best but weren’t helped by a badly-missed trip on the Caps who tripped Bowen Byram at the blue line off a faceoff. They pulled Kuemper but never got a clean look at the net, falling to their demise.
Johnson had himself a bad night in the back. He gave up several key pucks which led to two of Washington’s three goals including the game-winner. His lack of game awareness was not helpful for the team and ultimately led to the winning streak ending. He also very well might’ve cemented his place outside of the top six choice defensemen come playoff time.
There were a couple of injury scares in this game. Josh Manson went down hard in the first period after taking a hit. He left the game in the first period, down the tunnel without putting any pressure on his right leg. He would return to the game which gave fans a sigh of relief. MacKinnon also took a crunching blow in the third period that looked to have left him shaken up on the bench, but he did finish out the game. The team will look to stay healthy before the long playoff run.
A bright spot from this game was Cale Makar. He continued to do what Cale Makar does and even created history in the process. He was the secondary assist on the goal by Nichushkin back in the first period. With the assist, he became the franchise record holder for points in a season by a defenseman. His 83rd point of the season was a special one, passing Steve Duchene for the title. He will continue to rack up his point tally this season and perhaps reach the 90-point mark before season's end.
The Avs head off on a three-game road trip, their final multi-day trip of the regular season. It starts with a second visit to Climate Pledge Arena to face the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night. Puck drop is at 8:00 p.m. MT.