Avalanche offense anemic in loss to Winnipeg

Feb 16, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Colorado Avalanche goalie Jonathon Bernier (45) makes a save on a shot by Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler (26) during the first period at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche traveled to Winnipeg to face the Jets on a one-game road trip Friday night, and their offense was as cold as the freezing temperatures of Manitoba as they were dominated by the final score of 6-1.

In fact, it was the second time this month Colorado would go up to Winnipeg and leave disappointed, combining for a total score of 9-1 in the two meetings.

Giving up the first goal of the game in Winnipeg is always a difficult obstacle to overcome and Friday was no different. Halfway through the first period Jonathan Bernier allowed a bad-angle goal from below the goal line from Blake Wheeler and the Jets never looked back.

The second period featured three goals from Winnipeg, all of a different variety — one five-on-five, one on the power play and one shorthanded. The ugly period from the Avs put them behind 4-0 and forced coach Jared Bednar to replace Bernier with Semyon Varlamov for the remainder of the game.

The Jets would score twice more to start the third period before the Avs finally got one past Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck — Colorado’s first goal against Hellebuyck in 114:04. Mikko Rantanen was the one to break the dry spell, scoring his 18th goal of the season on a strong wraparound off of his own zone entry.

Despite winning the overall shot count 31-28, Colorado was unable to really generate much of an offensive threat throughout the game, particularly in the first period when only eight Avalanche shots reached the net.

The lack of Nathan MacKinnon’s offensive impact has been notable as the Avalanche have been held to two goals or less in five of the eight games without him. Colorado averages 3.22 goals in games featuring Nathan MacKinnon this season and has averaged only 2.13 goals per game since his upper-body injury.

His absence has been felt largely on the power play where he has scored 18 points this year, but the Avalanche power play has only tallied twice since his injury — Friday night it went 0-5.

To make matters worse, the power-play units have also allowed three shorthanded goals against in MacKinnon’s absence.

Colorado is now 4-4-0 without its potential Hart Trophy candidate, but the Avalanche scoring has taken an obvious hit and are in need of his return.

There is a chance Nathan MacKinnon plays Sunday afternoon when the Avalanche host the Edmonton Oilers and it could not come sooner for Colorado, who is not only desperate for scoring but wins as well. With 25 games remaining, the Avalanche sit two points out of the final wild-card spot and face a stretch of games that has them playing every other night for the next 22 calendar days.

Puck drop Sunday will be at 1:00 PM MST at Pepsi Center where the Avalanche haven’t lost since December 27.

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