With less than a 24-hour turnaround following Friday night’s win over the Ottawa Senators, the Avalanche were behind the eight ball against the Minnesota Wild. The game resulted in a loss for Colorado by the final score of 3-2, but the Avalanche refused to make this an easy win for their division rivals. The game was up for grabs up until late in the third period.
The Avalanche put the ball in Minnesota’s court early on when defenseman Mark Barberio, who was only playing in his third game of the year, scored a slick five-hole goal off an offensive zone faceoff to give Colorado the early 1-0 lead with 5:54 into the game.
From there, it was nothing but silence from the Avs scoring. They still played well and generated several scoring opportunities, especially on the power play, but ultimately the game played out to be more of a goaltending battle as neither team was burying their chances.
Both of the starting goaltenders have had a solid start to their seasons and they also both brought their A-games Saturday. So much so that following the matchup, Semyon Varlamov and Devan Dubnyk were first and second respectively in the NHL’s save percentage category — Varlamov with a .950 and Dubnyk with a .945.
Both goalies made some big saves during defensive breakdowns, and quite frankly, there were a handful of lucky ones too, particularly from Varlamov. He didn’t see the shot at times but his positioning was perfect and the puck ended up bouncing off him.
Varlamov’s spectacular play could only last so long, though, as Minnesota was finally able to exploit a small mistake from the Avs goaltender and bury their first goal of the night 7:15 into the second period.
Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund found a puck on the doorstep of Varlamov’s blocker side. Granlund patiently waited to see Varlamov’s positioning, and while Varlamov thought he was properly situated in a reverse-VH, Granlund hit the open window over the goalie’s shoulder notching his fifth goal of the year and tying the game at one.
The back-and-forth continued, mainly with the Avs controlling the pace of play and generating a considerably higher amount of shot attempts, but the third period would start with a 1-1 score and the game was either team’s for the taking.
Minnesota scored just over halfway through the final period on an Eric Staal power-play one-timer in the slot to make it a 2-1 game, putting the Avalanche on their heels. The goal was the sixth the Avs have given up this year while shorthanded, but they finished the game with the third-best killing percentage in the NHL at 88.5 percent.
The Avalanche continued to fight and shoot, but couldn’t get one past Dubnyk. Then, with 2:43 remaining in the game, the Avs were on a power play and pulled their goalie to make their already threatening one-man advantage into a two-man advantage with the sixth attacker. Immediately upon the ensuing faceoff, Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin shot the puck the length of the ice for the game-winner into an empty net.
The Avalanche scoring came back to life with 42 seconds left on the clock when Gabe Landeskog kept his hot streak alive and cleaned up a rebound giving the Avs a little hope in the closing minute of the game, but it was too little, too late.
After a difficult back-to-back, the Avalanche now have four days off and won’t hit the ice for a game until they meet Calgary on Thursday night. Colorado will be looking for some redemption and revenge in Alberta that night considering the heartbreaking overtime home loss they suffered at the hands of the Flames just a few weeks ago.
Despite the game being on the road, puck drop Thursday will be will be standard timing for Avs fans as Calgary is the only other NHL team in the mountain time zone and the game will start at a comfortable 7 p.m. MT.