They had been here before. Game 3 with the series tied 1-1, coming back to their home building.
The last time they were in this position, the Colorado Avalanche handed the Calgary Flames a 6-2 loss. On Tuesday night, however, the Avalanche struggled in front of a packed Pepsi Center, losing 4-2 to the Sharks.
San Jose jumped out to an early two goal lead, scoring two in the first frame. Nathan MacKinnon got his team back in the game scoring on a beautiful wrist shot. Matt Nieto tied the game off a tip from Sam Girard’s shot from the blue line in the final frame but San Jose’s Logan Couture responded quickly after netting his second of the game, and added an empty netter to round out the hat trick.
What did we learn from this Game 3 loss?
1. The Power Play needs to be better, much better. The Avalanche went 0-for-4 on the power play. When this team is winning, their power play is dominating. Tyson Barrie struggled on the point for the top line of the power play, where Sam Girard and Cale Makar looked strong on the second line. The Sharks pressured hard, forcing lots of Colorado mistakes and forced shots. For this team to win in Game 4, they need to at least go 50% on the power play.
2. The penalty kill was on fire tonight. On the flip side of the special teams coin, Colorado’s penalty kill was perfect on the night. Erik Johnson and Ian Cole ate a lot of the ice time on the kill and were really strong. Not having Matt Calvert on the man down didn’t seem to be an issue, although it was in other facets of the game. The Sharks have a very good extra man unit, and Colorado needs to continue to be successful on the kill moving forward to have a hope at winning the series.
3. The Avalanche got away from their game. When Colorado was successful in Game 2, they were getting pucks in deep and winning races. They weren’t trying to use their speed head on against the Sharks, it was used to get in behind their defense. Colorado went back to their old ways, trying to skate by the Sharks which proved to be ineffective. They went back to shooting everything at Martin Jones’ chests and not crashing the net for rebounds. When they are successful they aren’t sloppy in their own zone. They don’t turn the puck over, which is something they did a lot Tuesday night. They just overall weren’t playing their game that won them last series and Game 2 of this series.
4. Not having Matt Calvert hurt. Matt Calvert means more to this team that just his penalty killing abilities. He is a true team guy. He is willing to put his body on the line for his team. Without him winning races to the puck and making plays, the Avalanche seemed flat. Not only does he boost his team but he is a menace for the other team. He is a thorn in the side of every player on the opposing team; he finishes his checks, is always chirping and is the hardest worker on the ice.
5. This team goes as Nathan MacKinnon goes. MacKinnon was 5th on the team in ice time after the first period. The Sharks lead Colorado 2-0 after the first period. MacKinnon went back to leading the team in ice time the second period and got the team their first goal. When MacKinnon is playing well, it opens up the ice for his teammates. San Jose found a way to shut him down for most of the period, making it hard for the Avalanche to be successful.
The Avalanche return to action on Thursday for Game 4 looking to tie the series back up at 2 games a piece. Puck drop is set for 8:00 PM MST from the Pepsi Center.