For the first time this season, the Avalanche bent, and then broke.
Colorado has seen leads withered away in its first 11 games prior to tonight, but unlike past performances, the Avs were unable to escape with a victory, as the Panthers scored twice late in the third and added another early in overtime to win 4-3 at the Pepsi Center.
The overtime loss was the first time that Colorado has blown a lead this season. And in a league with as much parity as the NHL, that’s a stat that any coach will accept.
If we only blow a lead every 12 games all year I’ll be happy,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “It’s easier to push when you’re down.”
The Avalanche played what was to their standards a pedestrian opening period. Bednar called it a “slow and lethargic” first, adding that his team was not hungry enough in the early going. But they held a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes after Nathan MacKinnon and Joonas Donskoi paired up for the go-ahead goal.
Colorado took control in the second, at one point outshooting the Panthers 16-2 before the midway point of the frame. But neither team was able to find the back of the net. In the third, the Avalanche added a goal from MacKinnon, who with two points tonight, extended his season-opening point streak to 12 games.
Leading by two goals with just over eight minutes remaining, the Avs found themselves on the penalty kill, as defenseman Nikita Zadorov was called for slashing, to the dismay of his head coach.
“I thought he got away with the first one when he slashed him between the legs but then he got him again up by the red line. It’s a penalty,” Bednar said. “It’s a bad penalty to take at that point in the game.”
The Panthers capitalized just 10 seconds into that power play as Aleksander Barkov beat goalie Philipp Grubauer to pull Florida within one.
Florida continued to press, eventually pulling its goalie late in the period. Off the ensuing faceoff, the Panthers controlled play in the offensive zone before Jonathan Huberdeau tied the game, getting a clear view of his target to force overtime.
The extra period lasted just 29 seconds before Huberdeau ended the game off a scramble play that ended with him sliding the puck between Grubauer’s pads.
The Panthers capped off a 1-3 come-from-behind road victory, just as the Avalanche had done to them two weeks ago.
The Bellemare line continues to be dominant. It’s hard to label a fourth line as dominant. But that’s exactly what the line consisting of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Matt Nieto and Matt Calvert has been for the Avalanche. Nieto scored the opening goal after Bellemare’s shot was stopped by Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrosky. It was his third goal, and ninth from the trio this season.
MacKinnon has five points in Rantanen’s absence. When Rantanen went down with a lower-body injury against St. Louis last week, he was tied for the team lead in points with MacKinnon, scoring five goals and seven assists in nine games. Since his injury, MacKinnon has added five points, including two multi-point games. MacKinnon’s point streak is the longest in the NHL this season.
Colorado’s power play failed to score. Prior to tonight, the Avalanche had scored a power-play goal in each of their first five games at the Pepsi Center. It was the longest such feat on home ice since the 1995-96 season, when they scored with the man-advantage in each of their first seven games at home. That streak came to an end tonight. The Avs had two power plays, both of which were killed off in their entirety.
Stat of the Night
Defenseman Sam Girard played a team-leading 24:25 tonight. It was the second-highest ice-time of his young career and just the third time that he played more than 24 minutes. Girard added an assist on the Donskoi goal in the first period and now has six assists in 12 games.