Well, it was fun for a little bit.
The Avs started off decently, outplayed in the middle portion, and made things interesting in a 5-4 loss to the Florida Panthers Tuesday night. What had been advertised as a closely-contested matchup on National TV went just as advertised, even though it wasn’t for a good chunk of the game.
After the Panthers got their first three goals in four minutes in the first period, it seemed like a lost cause until the third period. Despite a couple of days' rest, the Avs couldn’t complete the same magic they had in their resilient win over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday night.
It was an awkward start as Andrew Cogliano took a weird hip check which left him funny but he continued on just fine. Just afterward, Sergei Bobrovsky almost got caught out between the circles but Darren Helm wasn’t able to push the puck past him.
Then, things started to fall apart for the Avs despite a decent start. Evan Rodrigues was on the receiving end of a trip from Sam Reinhart which left him writhing in pain in front of the Panthers' bench. He was attended to for a decent time on the ice but returned to the game.
Before you knew it though, the Panthers hit back - this time by hitting the net. Aleksander Barkov made it 1-0 beating out the icing seconds before. Just minutes later, Brandon Montour would go bar-and-in over the glove of Alexandar Georgiev to make it 2-0. And just minutes after the second goal, Sam Bennett would capitalize on lazy Avs defense. Suddenly, what was a decent 0-0 game for the Avs turned upside down 3-0 to the Cats.
The Avs were stunned and didn’t look as if they’d respond too well, especially when the fourth line was the best line late in the period. But, the best line made it count as a combination of players on the ice connected. Cale Makar found Kurtis MacDermid at the far circle who shot to the net, and his shot would be tipped by Andrew Cogliano. It would be a huge goal as the Avs looked to get back into it down only 3-1 heading into the room.
The Avs had their chances coming out of the gate, especially when Makar was tripped up by Anton Lundell. This included when Mikko Rantanen was all alone in front but hit the bar. Sam Girard then had the puck skip on him in front of an empty net when Bobrovsky was down and out.
It wasn’t all good from there. After Nathan MacKinnon was stopped on a 3-on-1, Kurtis MacDermid did what he could, fighting Givani Smith in a takedown. However, he was cut and had to go get treatment. His fight did not do much for Colorado, who were outworked and did not see many chances at the net.
Despite a Bennett hooking penalty, the Avs had nothing going forward for them on the man advantage. They would pay for their missed chances when Matthew Tkachuk all but finished the game away on an errant rebound by Georgiev to make it 4-1 late in the period.
With the Avs down three, it seemed highly unlikely they would get any chance coming back into this game. Bobrovsky was making some good saves and locked in, not allowing anything into the twine.
However, the stars of Colorado had other ideas. Rantanen pulled a wraparound behind the net and put it off the skate of Bobrovsky and in to make it 4-2 for a little bit of life. Seconds later, MacKinnon managed to squeeze the puck past the netminder and make it 4-3, forcing Paul Maurice to take his timeout.
The energy in the crowd was back, and the Avs utilized this to their advantage. When J.T. Compher and Montour took unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, it seemed as if Artturi Lehkonen had tied it at four off a Rodrigues shot, but it was called back for offsides as Devon Toews entered the zone too early.
However, Compher answered the no-goal call with a goal call of his own just out of the box to tie it up at four this time, sending the crowd into a ruckus.
Just when it seemed as if the Avs would push for a regulation winner, Rantanen committed an interference penalty which drew controversy and anger from him as Compher was high-sticked seconds before. The penalty proved killer for the Avs, as Tkachuk would get a lucky goal off of Makar’s stick and Rodrigues’s skate and across the goal line to give the Panthers the lead back.
With the late third-period goal for Florida, it left the Avs little time to get another equalizer. They had some chances, but ultimately some bad decisions and missed opportunities led the Avs to lose 5-4, their sixth loss in seven games.
This was a rollercoaster of a match. From the awful defensive start, letting in three goals in four minutes in the first period to what was the energetic third period, there’s lots to break down. Particularly, the second period is where the Avs lost this game. They didn’t generate goals off of the late Cogliano goal in the first and were missing the net. If the Avs had gone into the intermission down only 3-1 instead of 4-1, they very easily could’ve won the game with their performance in the final 20 minutes.
Special teams were also a hamper to Colorado en route to the loss. The Avs went 0-for-3 on the man advantage while going 0-for-2 on the penalty kill. Particularly, the late penalty on Rantanen where he let his emotions get the best of him after a no-call on Compher seconds before, led to Tkachuk’s game-winning goal with only three minutes remaining. While the penalty kill had been better - and the defense as a whole in the game was bad - Colorado really needs to focus on the man advantage.
They’ve fallen to eleventh in the league, even though players like MacKinnon and Rodrigues are back. They need their other guys like Valeri Nichushkin and Gabriel Landeskog to return when they can so they can also create chances and bring this power play back to life, and spread the wealth to have two great power play units.
Speaking of Rodrigues, his injury in the first period seemed bad - especially considering he just returned last game against the Oilers from another injury. However, he managed to play out the rest of the game, but in a gingerly fashion. He was flexing his ankle after play stopped multiple times. While he played through it, hopefully, he didn’t injure his ankle even more than how it may have been injured originally. Other injury news includes MacDermid, whose hand was cut in his fight with Smith but he returned to the game. Helm and Cogliano were also seen limping off but also kept playing. Hopefully, they’re all okay and accounted for at practice Wednesday and for their upcoming game on Thursday.
Finally, a shoutout to MacDermid for putting up two assists. Who would’ve thunk it? He was only a goal away from a Gordie Howe hat trick. Maybe his point-getting performance can inspire others in the depth of this team to get their own point total up as well.
After playing one game at home, the Avs head for one game on the road against the division-rival Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night. Puck drop is at 6:30 p.m. MT.