The Avalanche’s third period struggles continue in loss to Minnesota

Dec 27, 2019; Denver, Colorado, USA; Minnesota Wild right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) scores a goal past Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz (39) as defenseman Cale Makar (8) defends in the third period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Self-inflicted wounds have determined the outcome of the last three home games for the Avalanche.

The Avs struggled early but fought back, eventually taking a lead before surrendered three straight in the third and falling 6-4 to the Minnesota Wild on Friday night.

Colorado (23-12-3) has led in the third period of each of its last three home games and have come away with zero points.

“I think the ones before the break were guys getting tired, not defending,” forward Matt Calvert said after scoring twice in the loss. “We let in a lot of those goals tonight, the second goal was all on me, that’s me just being lazy. We got to clean that up but if we do we’re going to be a good hockey team in here.”

The Avs trailed 2-0 early before scoring twice late in the first period to tie the game. The second goal from captain Gabe Landeskog was perhaps the highlight of the evening. Landeskog picked up the puck at center ice and broke through both Wild defensemen before beating the goaltender.

After Minnesota fought back to take a 3-2 lead in the second, the Avs needed another late-period goal to tie the game again. Center Nathan MacKinnon scored his team-leading 22nd of the season, redirecting a shot from prized rookie Cale Makar off his skate. The Avalanche used that momentum to take a 4-3 lead early in the third.

But Colorado was unable to close it out, again. Minnesota tied the game, took the lead and added an empty-netter to hand Colorado its fourth regulation loss in six games.

“They’re sloppy plays,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Turnovers, we lose a guy at the net, a couple bad angle shots.”

Avs goalie Pavel Francouz, who had not lost in regulation in 12 games, finished with 27 saves.

“He’s mixed in with the rest of the team,” Bednar said. “Just not a complete game from him.”

Takeaways

The Avs top line is scoring, but struggling defensively. MacKinnon, Landeskog, and linemate Mikko Rantanen have been on the ice for seven goals against over the past three games. Despite accounting for two goals, the trio finished a combined minus-4 in the loss.

Colorado has struggled against the Central Division. The Avs fall to 6-7-0 against division opponents. They are 1-2 against Minnesota and 0-2 against the Dallas Stars, who they play tomorrow on the road.

Stat of the Night

Playing in his first game in almost three weeks, Makar played a team-high 23:23. He finished with one assist and two shots on goal.

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