Avalanche struggle defensively in 6-2 loss to Minnesota Wild

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Feb 24, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Minnesota Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen (34) defends on Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin (13) in the first period at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Avalanche hosted the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday in a quick-hit single game that was a make-up from the COVID-cancelled matchup earlier this month.
A handful of defensive blunders combined with the inability to beat Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen resulted in a 6-2 final, and Colorado’s first two-game losing streak of the season.
While a winter storm wreaked havoc outside Ball Arena, inside, Kahkonen was a force of his own, shutting down 30 of the Avs’ 32 shots on goal and denying several great Colorado scoring opportunities.
But the aforementioned defensive miscues were the bigger issue.

“Too many mistakes on the defensive side of things,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We’re on the power play, a d-zone faceoff, and we’re trying to do everything right. We kick the puck back and then run into the official. We’re getting ready to go on a breakout and they score.”

The Avalanche were fresh off of a four-game set with the Honda West Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and thus, came out of the gate strong. Colorado dominated the pace of play early, generating a few dangerous chances including a post by Nazim Kadri, but Khakonen stood strong in net.
The Avs first penalty kill of the night came with 7:01 into the first period on a tripping call on Mikko Rantanen. While the kill was successful, the Wild were able to harness some momentum and put in a momentum-killing first goal past Avs goalie Philip Grubauer.
It was an uphill battle from there for the home team.
The Avs scratched and clawed their way through the second period, but couldn’t find a way to crack the Minnesota netminder until 7:21 into the second period when Sam Girard found J.T. Compher alongside him on the rush and put the puck right one his tape. Compher didn’t hesitate and puts the puck over Kahkonen’s glove-side shoulder.
Just over five minutes later the Avs had the wind taken out of their sails once more as familiar foe Zach Parise redirected a Matt Dumba shot from the point and put the Wild up 2-1. The goal would be a milestone for Parise as it was his 800th NHL point.
Minnesota scored once more before the period ended on a strange play that involved the linesman blocking Kadri’s access to the puck off of a defensive faceoff win. Rather than Kadri collecting the puck and starting the breakout, the play ended in Ryan Hartman picking up the loose puck and centering it to a wide-open Marcus Foligno and the Wild were in full control.
A power-play goal early in the third period from Kadri helped breathe some life back into the Avs, but in the end, getting the puck past the Wild’s second-year goaltender proved to be too large of a feat for the struggling Avs. Credit is due for the Minnesota defensive structure as well, which played a big part in their young goaltender’s seventh win of the year and a .937 save percentage on the night.
Colorado looks ahead at a two-game, back-to-back set with the Arizona Coyotes on Friday and Saturday night.
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