The Colorado Avalanche finished out their road trip in Minnesota on Thursday night against the Wild. Neither team could find an edge early, but Colorado got in penalty trouble in the second frame, opening the door for the Wild to gain the advantage. Despite fighting their way back into the game late in the second period, the Avalanche fell to Minnesota 3-2.
After a hard-fought scoreless first period, Minnesota found the back of the net on a power-play goal. Just over a minute later, Jordan Greenway found himself wide open in front of Philipp Grubauer and buried the puck to give the Wild a two-goal advantage.
Cale Makar made sure that lead didn’t last long as he found the back of the net on the power play. The rookie sensation wasn’t finished there, though. Makar walked into the slot, toe-dragged a pair of Wild defensemen and went top corner for his seventh goal of the season. Makar’s goal knotted the score at two goals apiece.
Just over halfway into the third period, Ryan Suter found Eric Staal in front of the goal. Grubauer had to move from the near post to the far post to make the save but lost sight of the puck in doing so. Not knowing that the puck had not crossed the goal line, he stood up, leaving Jason Zucker the perfect opportunity to poke the now loose puck into the goal, giving the Wild a 3-2 lead.
The Avalanche pulled their goaltender with three minutes remaining in the game, but couldn’t find a way to get the tying goal.
Colorado will return home, winning three of its five games on this long road trip.
What did we learn from the loss at Minnesota?
The toll the road trip took on this team showed early in the game. Colorado looked sluggish and tired as the game started and even into the second frame. They took bad penalties that were directly the result of them not moving their feet or playing defense. This game could have had a different ending if this team came out playing differently, but playing in the final game of a long road trip, it is understandable to start slow.
Makar continues to make a case for the Calder Trophy. It has been said again and again, but with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen out, the Avalanche needed other players to step up. Nathan MacKinnon has continuously done that, but right alongside him is Makar. He stepped up tonight scoring two goals and putting this Avalanche on his back, bringing them right back into contention for the win. His goals gave this team a new life late in the second period. Everyone seemed to gain energy by Makar making plays most rookies, let alone a rookie defenseman, can’t make.
It’s good to have Grubauer back in the lineup. He’s been back for two games now, and the amount of confidence that the Avalanche play with when he is in the net is uncomparable to when he isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the other three goalies played well in his absence, but Grubauer keeps this team in games when they are down. For example, Minnesota had a shorthanded 2-on-1 opportunity. Grubauer made an unbelievable post-to-post blocker save to keep the game tied 2-2.
Home sweet home. The Avalanche return home on Saturday night for Tyson Barrie’s first time back in the Pepsi Center since being traded. The puck drop for Colorado and the Toronto Maple Leafs matchup is set for 5:00 PM MST.