The Avalanche suffered another disappointing loss to a division opponent, losing to the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 7-4 on New Year’s Eve at Pepsi Center.
In front of a full, energetic crowd, the game was worth the price of admission. It was fast-paced with back-and-forth scoring. Unfortunately for the Colorado faithful, the Avalanche couldn’t put together a strong third period to win the game despite the game being knotted up at 3-3 early in the third period.
The game was much closer than the score would indicate, but the string of recent results along with what ensued against the Jets is certainly worth a raising of the eyebrows at Colorado’s performance in third periods.
Another tough start. Avs coach Jared Bednar is notorious for not liking the way his team starts games this season and Tuesday night was no different. The Jets came out of the gate with more dangerous scoring chances and ultimately buried one to get the early lead on a Blake Wheeler goal 6:25 into the opening period.
Jets goaltending gave the Avalanche ‘Helle.’ Connor Hellebuyck shut the door on Colorado from the get-go despite being peppered with 43 shots. Hellebuyck was full of big-moment saves and great reads as he displayed why he is one of NHL’s best goalies when he is on. He often tends to be “on” against the Avalanche, and he certainly earned his win.
MacKinnon was feeling it. Nathan MacKinnon was a major bright spot for Colorado, finishing the night with two goals, including a powerful power-play one-timer from the far side. The Avs’ goal leader was electric all night, displaying his speed, powerful shot and knack for scoring. His goal tally is now at 24 but could have been higher after he missed the net on a couple of golden opportunities.
Avs were resilient. Even though it was a disappointing loss, the Avs tied the game three different times. The goals they scored were earned with hard work as it was hard to beat Hellebuyck when he plays to the level he did Tuesday evening. But the Avalanche fought to the end and even scored one last goal late on Nazem Kadri’s 13th of the year with 44 seconds remaining.
Special teams decided the game. The Avalanche played disciplined for the most part, with their first penalty kill of the game not coming until 9:22 left, but it was the turning point that cost them the game when Kyle Connor put in his second of three on the night and broke open the game and Colorado’s spirits.
Gabe Landeskog scored a power-play goal that came during a four-minute double-minor after Samuel Girard took a high stick to the face. The goal evened the game at 3-3 and gave the Avalanche a glimmer of hope heading into the final stretch of the third period.
The retaliation call on J.T. Compher that resulted in a four-on-four cost the Avs a crucial goal that killed their momentum. Sure, there was no man-advantage on the play, but the Avs looked flat and somewhat lost following the call.
Colorado will face off next against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. MST. Another pivotal Central Division game against a team that has been a challenge for the Avalanche in recent years.