Avalanche lose important points in 2-1 loss to Flyers during final playoff push

Mar 28, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (9) and right wing Jakub Voracek (93) and center Jori Lehtera (15) defend against Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) in the third period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche had much-needed points on the line but were outdueled by the Philadelphia Flyers in a 2-1 finish Wednesday night at Pepsi Center — where they hold a 26-11-2 record but have lost three of the last five games.

Wednesday’s loss marks the fourth consecutive game in which Colorado has struggled offensively and was capable of scoring only one goal. Coach Jared Bednar points to the power play’s struggles as of late as an important cause.

“Generally, we’ve counted on our power play to give us one, so there’s one we are missing in the last couple of games,” Bednar said.

“We missed on some of our opportunities tonight, especially early in the game. I think we had a lot of missed shots.”

Goaltender Andrew Hammond was in net for Colorado after Semyon Varlamov reportedly woke up feeling under the weather and was unable to play in Wednesday’s matchup. Hammond received his first NHL start since February 7, 2017, and only gave up two goals on 33 shots — both of which in the first period.

“I think it took me a period to get my legs under me,” Hammond commented on his game. “The unfortunate part is that the game-winning goal ended up getting scored in that period, but as the game went on I settled in, I started to feel better.

“I felt pretty good in the second and third.”

Colorado started the game off controlling the pace of play and had a few chances early but failed to capitalize on dangerous chances. The Flyers made them pay.

Claude Giroux scored after unleashing a powerful one-timer accurately over a sliding Andrew Hammond’s shoulder. Giroux, who was tied with Nathan MacKinnon in points entering the game at 92, ended the night with one more than Colorado’s point leader after MacKinnon went pointless for the third consecutive game.

With just under two minutes left in the second period, the Flyers would deliver another dagger to Colorado’s heart when Ivan Provorov let go of a slapshot from the point that fluttered over Hammond’s left leg and into the net.

“There was a little bit of a moving screen, but I just wasn’t set quick enough,” Hammond said. “I think if I was set quick enough I would have been able to make that. Fluttering or not, it’s probably a shot I need to save.”

The Avalanche found a bit of life 5:36 into the second period when Matt Nieto would pick up a loose puck on the doorstep and got one past a sprawling Michal Neuvirth.

Soon after Nieto’s goal Mikko Rantanen had a chance to tie the game at two, but, as was the theme of the night, the Avalanche were unable to capitalize on the opportunity and continued to play a desperate offensive style for the rest of the game.

The third period featured a hard push from the Avalanche as they totaled 34 shot attempts, however, only twelve of which actually reached the net.

The Avalanche ultimately were outshot 33-28 and ended with more of their shot attempts blocked than reached the net with 33.

Currently sitting at 90 points with five games remaining the Avalanche are on the outside of the playoffs looking in. The Avs face an important game on Friday at home against the Chicago Blackhawks before leaving on a pivotal final road trip of the year in California facing the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks respectively.

The Avalanche will certainly need to revive their offensive game as the final five games of the season are as crucial as ever, facing three of the teams they are fighting with for final playoff positioning.

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