The Colorado Avalanche haven’t beat the Nashville Predators in their last ten attempts and on Friday night at Pepsi Center, history would repeat itself as the Predators left Colorado victorious once more by a final score of 4-2.
For the second time in as many games against Nashville, the Avalanche had a lead but let it slip away, while the Predators resilience demonstrated why they are the Western Conference’s best team.
With both teams on the second night of back-to-backs, the Avalanche came out of the gate looking like the better team, but ultimately were not firing on all cylinders and lost at home in regulation for the first time in 2018.
“It’s frustrating, no doubt, but it’s a hard-fought game and I liked our effort tonight,” Gabe Landeskog assessed following the loss. “I mean, everyone was going and every battle mattered out there, just came out short really.”
“It just seemed like we ran out of gas a little bit.”
While backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier continues to be sidelined with a head injury, Semyon Varlamov receiving his second start in two days was the hot topic surrounding the Avs leading up to the game. Varlamov has played in each of Colorado’s last 16 games but insists he is not feeling any sense of fatigue.
“Yeah I felt good,” Varlamov emphasized. “That is what we train for, in the summertime and all year long, to play every other day. Yeah, I’m feeling pretty good right now.”
“There’s no resting me at this time of the year. We’ve got to make a push.”
Varlamov ended the night with 24 saves and warded off some dangerous Nashville chances all game long.
Much like the meeting between the two teams just under two weeks ago, Nashville scored the first goal of the game only to be matched by Colorado right before the period ended.
The goal was Nathan MacKinnon’s — his 36th of the year — off of a one-timer from the center blueline off of assists from his right-hand men Tyson Barrie and Mikko Rantanen. MacKinnon’s goal extends his point streak to eleven games as he continues to make his case for the Hart Trophy.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows from MacKinnon’s standpoint, however, as he ended up a minus-1 plus/minus rating and had two of Colorado’s four penalties.
Then, 3:28 into the second period, Colorado’s fourth line had its best shift of the night, sustaining pressure in Nashville’s zone and keeping the play alive with its physical forecheck and strong pursuit of the puck. Colorado’s possession of the puck allowed Landeskog to get on the ice in place of Alex Kerfoot, where he went straight to the front of the net and cleaned up a loose puck in front of Nashville’s Juuse Saros.
The Avs held the lead for exactly three minutes. Then, a Craig Smith shot would take a funny bounce off of Varlamov, flutter over the Colorado netminder, and Filip Forsberg was there to bury the goal and tie the game at two.
Nashville’s Colton Sissons then crushed Colorado’s hopes for the evening when he tallied his second goal of the night on a one-timer from the top of the circle as he jumped in the Predators’ offensive rush.
The third period saw some back-and-forth action, but Colorado did not pose enough of an offensive threat to end the game and Saros was able to stop all eight Avalanche shots he faced in the final period of the game.
Nashville scored an empty-net goal with just over a minute to play, sealing the win for Nashville and clinching their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Avalanche sit in the first wild-card spot with 84 points and 71 games played.
The Dallas Stars lost in overtime Friday night to the Ottawa Senators, giving the Stars the second wild-card spot at 84 points in 72 games played.
Just behind the Stars is the Anaheim Ducks who won Friday night giving them the same 84 points in 72 games played as Dallas, but due to tie-breakers, the Ducks are on the outside looking in for now.
The Minnesota Wild widened their gap in front of the Avs with a win in Las Vegas on Friday night. Minnesota is even in games played with Colorado, but currently has 87 points as the Wild hold the third place spot in the Central Division.
Next up for Colorado will be a matinee game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday at 1 PM MST.