Tough luck causes Avalanche to lose to Winnipeg in Varlamov’s return

Feb 3, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) stops Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers (27) during the second period at Bell MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov hadn’t been in the Avs’ crease since January 2 when Colorado hosted the Winnipeg Jets in game three of the most recent ten-game win streak.

Coincidently, his return to action Saturday night was against the same Winnipeg team and ended with the Avalanche being shutout by the Central Division leaders by a 3-0 score.

After missing eleven games, Varlamov faced 31 shots on goal and 59 shot attempts in total in a strong showing that was typical of the Varlamov Avs fans have grown accustomed to — including a second-period save on Nikolaj Ehlers’ breakaway, but also a botched play behind the net while playing the puck.

Varlamov’s return started on the wrong foot after a Patrick Laine power-play goal at 2:27 into the game gave the Jets the early 1-0 lead. The Avalanche — in just their second game without Nathan MacKinnon — had a tough time creating much of an offensive fluidity to start the game but played strong on the defensive side, winning the first-period shot count 10-6.

The Jets took control of the game in the second period, outshooting the Avs 13-4, but Varlamov came up big stopping all of Winnipeg’s high-danger chances and helped maintain the 1-0 score.

The Avalanche had a chance to tie the game 13 minutes into the second period on a shorthanded 2-on-0 opportunity. Hope to finally squeak one past Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyk quickly turned to disappointment as the play ended with Gabriel Bourque missing the net off of Matt Nieto’s cross-ice pass.

The bad luck continued for the Avalanche in the third period when Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler took a shot from the slot that bounced off of defenseman Tyson Barrie and rainbowed over Varlamov’s blocker-side shoulder.

The Avalanche had one final opportunity to try and add some scoring of their own when they received their first power play of the game with just under five minutes remaining. However, they would come up empty-handed, only generating two shots on goal in the ensuing two minutes.

With an empty Avalanche net, Nikolaj Ehlers added the final goal of the game for Winnipeg making it a 3-0 final score.

Colorado is now 2-1-0 against the Jets this season and will face them one more time this year in 13 calendar days in Winnipeg.

Next up for the Avs is a quick stop at home before returning out on the road, when they host the San Jose Sharks Tuesday evening at 7 PM MST.

Five Observations

  • Needless to say, Varlamov played a strong game considering the circumstances. While his slides looked sharp, his puck-vision seemed to be a part of his game that was out of “game shape”.
  • Much like the previous game in Edmonton, the Avs were fighting a bit of bad Luck Saturday night. Collin Wilson accidentally blocked a Tyson Barrie goal with an empty net in the first period and Gabriel Bourque missing the 2-on-0 was a major turning point. Defensive bad luck was present as on Blake Wheeler’s goal too as it just bounced perfectly over Varlamov’s shoulder.
  • Colorado avoided catastrophe when Zadorov avoided injury after tenderly taking himself off the ice in the first period.
  • Nathan MacKinnon’s absence was apparent in Colorado’s inability to get through the neutral zone with speed and, obviously, in scoring.
  • Allowing 59 shot attempts and blocking 14 shots is less than ideal in a game where sheltering the goaltender was key, but considering past shot totals with Winnipeg, it is not enough to really gripe about.

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