Calvin Pickard stopped 44 shots in his first NHL start in nearly three weeks, but the Colorado Avalanche still came up just short in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

The Hurricanes (14-25-5) jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the Avalanche (18-17-9) fought back with two third period goals force the game into overtime.

Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm beat Pickard in the shootout while Anton Khodobin stymied Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene.

In their only other meeting this season, the Avalanche beat the Hurricanes 4-3 on Nov. 22 in Denver.

Colorado has come away with a loss in each of their last five consecutive visits to Raleigh (0-3-2).

Despite the shootout loss, Pickard maintained his hold on the league-lead with a .936 save percentage.

“He was phenomenal, especially in that first period,” coach Patrick Roy said of Pickard. “But he was really good all night. He made several good saves and kept us in the game in the first period.”

The Hurricanes rudely welcomed Pickard back to the NHL by peppering him with 20 shots in the first 20 minutes.

Jordan Stall broke through the rookie netminder on the Hurricanes 16th shot of the period. The goal – Jordan Stall’s first of the season – came off of a beautiful give-and-go play with Ryan Murphy.

Patrick Dwyer took advantage of a defensive breakdown at 6:03 of the second stanza to put the Canes up by two. Former Avs Brad Malone and Jay McClement picked up assists on the goal.

Coach Patrick Roy successfully kick started Colorado’s dormant offense by mixing up the lines midway through the contest.

“I think when we changed the lines and we put the top-6 together they started to generate more offense again,” coach Roy said.

Just 25 seconds into the third period, Jarome Iginla chipped a pass high out of the corner to Matt Duchene – who one-timed it over Khudobin’s arm to cut the deficit in half. Iginla and Alex Tanguay – who picked up the secondary assist on the goal – lead the club with 29 points each.

Midway through the period, John Mitchell stole the puck behind Colorado’s net, skated it coast-to-coast, and ripped a wrist shot five-hole to even the score.

The Avalanche were playing on the second half of a back-to-back and

“I thought we had a better third, but I just thought we exchanged too many scoring chances,” coach Roy said. “We should have been more patient but it is what it is. Like I said to the guys on the other side, I don’t think I’m going to re-watch that game because I’m afraid we’ll lose our point.”

The Avalanche will continue their five-game road trip on Thursday when they visit the Florida Panthers.

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