For the first time since they were traded from the Avalanche, Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot skated on the Pepsi Center ice. Saturday night’s matchup saw the Toronto Maple Leafs face off against the Colorado Avalanche in an epic reunion game. Despite falling into a three-goal deficit and climbing their way to back within a goal, the Avalanche fell to the Maple Leafs 5-3.
The Avalanche came out flying in the opening frame. Nathan MacKinnon found the back of the net 31 seconds into the game with a wrist shot from the point that beat Frederik Andersen under the glove.
The game changed after a TV timeout just when the Pepsi Center honored Tyson Barrie with a tribute video and a standing ovation. The Maple Leafs took the game over from that point for the remainder of the first period. Four different goal scorers found the back of the for Toronto including Tyson Barrie and Auston Matthews.
The Avalanche turned things around in the second period, getting back some of the momentum that they lost in the period prior. Bednar shook up the lines a little bit, bringing Andre Burakovsky back up to the first line with Joonas Donskoi and MacKinnon and moving Nazem Kadri back to the second line. He also replaced Philipp Grubauer in net with Pavel Francouz.
Burakovsky brought the Avalanche back to within two goals on a beautiful power-play passing sequence started by Kadri. Donskoi found Burakovsky on the far post for a wide-open net to bring the score to 2-4. The teams went into the locker room this way for the second intermission.
Colorado continued their upward trend early in the third period when after a few chances in close succession, Valeri Nichushkin found the back of the net off of a shot that hit the post from Ian Cole.
However, the three-goal deficit was too much of a hole for the Avalanche to climb out of, Toronto added an empty-net goal and Colorado lost the game 5-3.
What did we learn from Saturday night’s loss against Toronto?
An emotional game made for a fast start but a huge letdown. With Kadri facing his former team and Barrie and Kerfoot returning to the Pepsi Center for the first time, the Avalanche started really quickly but their torrid pace quickly became too much to sustain and the Maple Leafs took full advantage. It seemed to take quite a bit of energy to get the momentum back to even begin to crawl their way back into the game. The emotional letdown proved to be too much Saturday night.
Grubauer struggled from the first puck drop. Grubauer has played so well in the past few games for the Avalanche that it was about time for him to regress toward the mean, and it seems he chose the first period to do that. Grubauer let in four goals on 16 shots in the first period and should have saved at least two of them. Granted the defensive play of his team or lack thereof didn’t help, but he needed to make a couple more saves to keep the Avalanche in the game early.
Somehow, the Avalanche are still horrible at getting the puck out of their defensive zone. Now, this is something that a blind eye could have been turned to earlier on in the season, but now that the Avalanche are 23 games into the season, some of the sloppiness of their game should be cleaned up. First and foremost the thing that needs to be cleaned up is their defensive zone exits. The first two goals that Toronto scored tonight, were direct results of Colorado not being able to get the puck out of the zone. If this continues much further into the season, the Avalanche will be in for a rude awakening.
Rematch with McDavid for some revenge. The Avalanche look for some sweet revenge against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers when they return to action Wednesday night. Puck drop is set for 8:00 PM MST from the Pepsi Center.