Frustrations continue to mount as Avs blow another third period lead

Jan 10, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Zach Aston-Reese (46) controls the puck as Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz (39) defends in the third period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche led by a goal entering the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday but fell 4-3 in overtime.

If this sounds familiar it’s because, well, it should.

Over the past 11 games, the Avs are 3-6-2. In those losses, they have blown third-period leads on five separate occasions and were tied in the final period another three times. And they don’t seem to have an answer as to why this keeps happening.

“In the third, rush coverage, they score off the entry,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Two entry plays that I really didn’t like, one lacked communication on the rush coverage, and on the Malkin one, I don’t know.”

Colorado leads the NHL with 52 first-period goals and has the best second-period goal differential in the league. But as the game winds down, the Avalanche are struggling to close out their games. The Avs led after each of the first two periods on Friday but surrendered two goals in the third and another in overtime.

“I thought we had a really good first period, we limited their scoring chances,” Bednar said. “The second period flip-flopped for about 15 minutes until right before Landeskog scored they had the momentum.”

The Avalanche jumped out to a 1-0 lead after center Nathan MacKinnon scored his 27th goal of the season on the power play. Defenseman Sam Girard, who was elevated to the top power-play unit, set up MacKinnon for his first of two assists on the evening.

Colorado held the lead until late in the second period. Four minutes after the Penguins tied it, Avs captain Gabe Landeskog dumped the puck in from center ice and watched it bounce over goalie Matt Murray’s pad and into the net. The fortunate bounce gave the Avalanche a lead heading into the third.

Then the same story of the past three weeks was re-written.

The Avs watched as Pittsburgh tied the game, took the lead, and killed a penalty to hold a 3-2 lead heading into the final minute. With the goalie pulled for an extra-attacker, Avs forward Matt Calvert scored with 30 seconds remaining to tie the game and send it to overtime.

But after the teams exchanged chances, forward Jared McCann ended it for the Penguins. The Avs have four games at home before the All-Star break as they continue to find solutions to their recent struggles.

“I think a lot of what could help solve those issues is talking,” Bednar said. “We’ve been talking about this for four years. Talk. The D says I got him, our forward can lay off it, there’s no open net. It seems simple but it’s not easy. That solves a lot of problems. You look and it’s confusion, guys are guessing.”

“I wish we were a more vocal team. Some of the really good more experienced teams are more vocal.”

Takeaways

Girard adds two more assists. If you’re looking for positivity in Colorado’s 3-6-2 stretch, it’s Girard’s offensive explosion. The third-year Avalanche blueliner has 13 assists over the past 11 games, which leads NHL defenseman.

Colorado’s special teams were good, not great. Despite finished 1-for-3 with the man-advantage and a perfect 2-for-2 on the penalty kill, the Avalanche’s special teams continue to be mediocre at best. Colorado tied the game in the final minute, but not before failing to score on a power-play opportunity moments before. Before that, the Avs had an opportunity early in the third when the game was tied 2-2 but was unable to capitalize.

Avs surrender three more five-on-five goals. Before this 11-game stretch, Colorado was giving up just 1.57 five on five goals per game. Over the past 11 games, they have surrendered 26.

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