The Colorado Avalanche had two points within their grasp Sunday afternoon against the Western Conference point leading Nashville Predators, but the victory slipped between their fingers in a thrilling 4-3 overtime finish.
Settling for the one point in the overtime loss means the Avs are still on the outside looking in for the playoffs.
It appeared as though the Avs were headed toward their first victory over Nashville in their last nine meetings, but a late third-period goal followed by an early overtime goal quickly crushed those hopes.
“We didn’t play our best game, but still we got a one-goal game,” Mikko Rantanen said following the loss. “How we played in the third was how we wanted to play the whole game. A point is better than zero.”
The Avalanche went down early in the game after a Mattias Ekholm shot bounced off defenseman Anton Lindholm and behind Semyon Varlamov. It was a lucky goal that was seemingly gifted by the hockey gods as Nashville’s forecheck early in the game was too much for Colorado to handle and they were rewarded with a lead just over two minutes into the game.
Colorado was able to weather the storm and tied the game at one on a Nikita Zadorov breakaway. Colorado had just killed off his penalty and as he flew out of the penalty box. Carl Soderberg found Zadorov streaking towards the Predators goal. Zadorov walked in and unleashed a slapshot that Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne didn’t even move for as it whizzed past him.
“Carl, it was an unbelievable effort by him,” Zadorov said on his goal. “He battled back, won the puck, I called for it and it was kind of lucky.
“Were giving battles today. We weren’t there offensively, we were passing up shots when we didn’t have to, we needed to put more pucks on net — I don’t think their goalie was sharp today,” Zadorov added. “We needed to win that game, we had it in our hands and we just gave it away.”
The second period featured back-and-forth action as both teams were close to taking the 2-1 lead on various occasions. One, in particular, was on the stick Rantanen, who had a wide-open net that he missed just wide on a one-touch shot.
Nashville’s Kyle Turris capitalized on a chance shortly after to take the lead for the Predators.
“It was bothering me all game,” Rantanen said. “It was a 1-1 game, we had a good chance like that and a chance to make it 2-1 and then they scored on their power play 2-1, so it was frustrating to miss the chance, but it was good we got it back… not enough for the win, though.”
The Avs’ third-period resilience of late showed once again as they scored the tying goal on a Matt Nieto fortuitous bounce and then took the lead with 5:44 to go.
“We were not happy how we played the first two periods,” Rantanen stated. “The way we answered in the third, we played really good hockey and played hard, but it wasn’t enough today.”
Nashville pulled Pekka Rinne for the extra attacker and suddenly one of the league’s most dangerous offensive teams was pushing for a goal hard. The Avalanche crumbled. Ryan Ellis‘ goal with 1:06 remaining in the third was a one-timer from the circle to Varlamov’s right on a setup reminiscent of a power play.
On a day that was full of weird goals and bounces, Nashville’s Filip Forsberg walked in during the three-on-three and shot from a nearly impossible angle, seemingly catching Varlamov off guard. The Avs’ goaltender hardly reacted and the puck went through his legs, not even dropping into a butterfly.
The game was Colorado’s 11th overtime finish of the year — they are 6-5 on the season in overtime games — and was also the final game of a four-game homestand in which they finished 3-0-1. Next up, Colorado heads out on a quick two-game trip to face the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Avalanche sit one point outside the final Western Conference Wild Card spot, behind Los Angeles with 77. They have one game in-hand on the Kings.
Colorado needs to clean up its road record as they currently are 12-16-4 away from Pepsi Center. With 17 games remaining, a strong showing on the road will make or break this team’s playoff chances. That is assuming they continue their impressive play at home, where they haven’t lost a regulation game in 2018.
Puck drop Tuesday in Chicago will be at 6:45 p.m. MST.