DENVER — With the game tied in the third period and the Avalanche on the power play, Cale Makar was called for interference at the blueline after a Canucks player collided with him. The Avs were setting up for a zone entry as they usually do, after dropping the puck back to Nathan MacKinnon and allowing him to weave into the offensive zone.

The penalty on Makar negated Colorado’s power play, where it had capitalized on two-of-five previous chances. On the ensuing 4-on-4, Vancouver’s Ethan Bear fired a shot past goalie Pavel Francouz, which proved to be the difference, as the Avalanche lost 4-3 at Ball Arena on Wednesday.

Both MacKinnon and Makar were frustrated with what they felt was a bad call.

“It’s more his ice because he’s there first, and he’s just standing there and the guy runs into him,” MacKinnon told me following Colorado’s second consecutive loss at home. “It only seems to get called on the powerplay, never on 5-on-5. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Makar agreed with MacKinnon’s sentiments, but also urged that pointing the finger at the officiating is not something he wants the Avs to get accustomed to.

“I can run and get out of the way but then I risk running into Nate going over the blue line,” Makar said. “I feel like even with the conversation that I had with the refs just clearing it up, they felt I stuck my ass out and I don’t think I did there.

“But if we’re going to complain about the refs, that’s not the mentality that we need to have here.”

It was a penalty that had been called on the Avalanche in the past. But the frustrations stem from the inconsistencies surrounding that type of play more than anything, MacKinnon explained.

“They call it like every fourth time. It’s weird. Sometimes they feel like calling it. It just feels like when we have a bunch of power plays, they’ll call it. If we’re up 5-2 on power plays, they’ll just call it. And then it’s 4-on-4 and they score. It’s unfortunate.”

The Avs led 2-1 entering the third-period thanks to two goals from Mikko Rantanen and another from Makar — his third in as many games. Each of them scored on the power play before the Canucks tied it with a goal from former Av Sheldon Dries.

Colorado bounced back from there, eventually drawing a penalty on Elias Petterson before the Makar interference call. Head coach Jared Bednar wasn’t a fan of the team’s play throughout the night. But even more so, he disagreed with the call.

“If you’re skating across the line setting an intentional pick, moving into that player’s ice, it should be called interference,” Bednar said. “But I think when you get to the line and you’re stopped and you’re occupying ice, it’s up to the defending player to move around.”

Bednar echoed MacKinnon’s thoughts: “You’re entitled to ice everywhere else in the entire rink. I don’t see why you’re not entitled to ice if you’re there early and stopped on the powerplay. It’s called differently every night so we’ll have to get clarity on it again.”

The Avalanche lost another top forward to injury, this time it was Evan Rodrigues leaving with a lower body injury in the first period. Rodrigues was ruled out shortly thereafter, making the loss sting even more.

“We had a bad first 10 minutes. Other than that, I thought we played really well,” MacKinnon said. “We’re battling with a depleted lineup and, yeah.”

Rodrigues skates into the slot and just as he goes to shoot, the skate of Canucks forward Bo Horvat collides with Rodrigues’ right skate. He seemed to be in pain after the collision and fell to the ice before skating gingerly to the bench and straight to the dressing room.

Rodrigues joined a list of injuries that includes Gabriel Landeskog, Valeri Nichushkin, Bowen Byram, Darren Helm, Kurtis MacDermid and Shane Bowers. Previously injured defenseman Samuel Girard made his return after missing six games.

“We have two top-20 forwards in the whole world out right now,” said MacKinnon, who described the number of injuries the team is dealing with as silly. “We have Bowen Byram out, and Helmer. and ERod now.”

Colorado also lost Mikko Rantanen and J.T. Compher late in the second period but both returned. Rantanen was clipped with a high stick from Tyler Myers, drawing a four-minute double minor that the Avs later capitalized on. After that power play, while Colorado was shorthanded, Compher blocked a shot and didn’t take another shift until the third period.

The Avs trailed 1-0 but scored three of the next four goals to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission. Vancouver’s Ilya Mikheyev scored just 21 seconds in after defenseman Devon Toews lost control of the puck behind the net, allowing Petterson to collect it and send it to Mikheyev alone in front for the goal.

The game remained 1-0 until Rantanen scored his first of two tallies. Rantanen skated to the crease behind goalie Spencer Martin and tapped home a pass from Toews.

Just six minutes later, Rantanen added a power-play goal, scoring his 13th of the season and giving Colorado the lead.

The Canucks thought they had initially tied it in the second period off a goal from Connor Garland. Defenseman Luke Schenn sent a shot on goal from the blue line and Garland redirected it past Francouz. The Avalanche eventually challenged for goalie interference and the goal was called back.

Francouz skated to center ice and signaled to coach Jared Bednar to challenge before the puck was dropped. But Bednar confirmed they had already planned to challenge the play after seeing the replay.

“We don’t go off the goalie’s reaction at all,” he said. “Because Frankie doesn’t know if Girard pushed him in or not. He’s watching the puck and watching the play.”

Coincidentally, the Canucks scored on nearly the exact same play just moments later. Bear sent a shot toward the goal from the blue line that was redirected at the top of the crease by Horvat, who tallied his NHL-best 16th of the season to make it 2-2.

That’s when the penalties were called and the game shifted back towards Colorado. First, it was the double minor on Myers. After 2:25 of unsuccessful PP time, the Avalanche drew another penalty, this time a hooking call on J.T. Miller.

While on the 5-on-3 advantage, Cale Makar fired it past Martin, scoring his third goal in as many games.

Francouz made just 21 saves as Colorado outshot Vancouver 36-25.

The Avalanche fall to 11-6-1 heading into the Thanksgiving holiday. They were 10-5-1 at the same time a season ago.

Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completing his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked as the assistant sports information director for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department.
Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

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