Avalanche fall 3-2 to defending champion Capitals

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports.
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports.

The Avalanche faced the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and lost in an entertaining overtime bout by the score of 3-2.

It was a battle for both sides. Granted, the Capitals haven’t had the strongest of starts to the season, sitting at 8-7-3 and 19 points heading into the game. Nor did Washington have a few of their top players, but the Avalanche did play a decently competitive and tactically aggressive game in front of an impressive Pepsi Center crowd.

Colorado’s best player of the evening was most definitely Philipp Grubauer who made his sixth start of the year and stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced.

“They had a couple of chances in the slot, I’ve got to make the save,” Grubauer said following the loss. “Other than that, I think we played unbelievable in the last period.

“It was nice to get a game in two weeks, or whatever. It felt like it was the offseason, but it was good. Next game is coming up soon.”

Having a rough start to the year himself, consisting of a .893 save percentage and a 3.55 goals against average, Grubauer was due for a big game. Even if it was his first start since November 2, he showed up to play against his former team.

“Warmups, looking down, it was a little weird,” the goaltender said about facing his former team. “It felt like a scrimmage, like the preseason a little bit, looking down and seeing a couple of familiar faces. They were buzzing. They’ve been good. Obviously a huge road trip for them and we needed those points.”

The Avalanche opened up the night’s scoring right away when Tyson Jost made a spectacular backhand pass to Carl Soderberg in the slot and Soderberg buried his seventh goal of the year just 1:08 into the game. The 1-0 Avalanche lead was the seventh time this season they led heading into the dressing room after the first. Of those seven, Friday night’s matchup was only the second time Colorado ended up with a loss after having a first-period lead.

The second period belonged to the Washington Capitals who tallied two even-strength goals to take control of the game. One from Devante Smith-Pelly off of a brilliant ticky-tac play from the Caps and the second on an Alex Ovechkin high-slot snipe after entering the zone. The Washington goals came at 8:55 and 18:29 into the period.

“I thought we dried up in the second,” coach Jared Bednar said. “It was all rush-opportunities, not enough o-zone possession time, we turned too many pucks over.

“I just didn’t feel like we were driving our legs like we normally do. Now the third period was a different story.”

The Avalanche pressed hard in the third period and outshot Washington 8-3 in the final frame.

After some great scoring chances for Colorado and some big saves from Capitals goaltender Pheonix Copley, Colin Wilson found a rebound and batted the puck in the net with 2:44 to go. After a goal review for goaltender interference, the call on the ice would stand and the Avs showed some third-period resilience for the second game in a row. Regulation ended and the Avalanche were headed to overtime for the fourth time this season.

“It’s crazy, every single goal seems to be reviewable these days,” Colin Wilson said on the goal review. “If the coach can challenge, why wouldn’t he? I’m glad this one counted.”

The Avalanche went into the overtime period shorthanded and just 22 seconds in, Nicklas Backstrom scored leaving the Avalanche with yet another overtime loss. Not counting shootouts, Colorado hasn’t won an overtime game since February of the 2017-18 season.

Colorado will head out to California next to face the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings followed by a trip to Arizona to face the Coyotes before returning home next Saturday to face the Dallas Stars on the second night of a back-to-back set.

The Avalanche are currently tied for fourth place in the Central Division with 22 points and a 9-6-4 record.