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Despite a 2-1 record after the first three games, and the advantage of playing on home ice, Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche were looking for a shake-up in the bottom six as they welcomed in the Winnipeg Jets for the second game of the season within the confines of Ball Arena.
Three players were called up, (Martin Kaut, Anton Blidh, and Jayson Megna) and all three made their season debuts for the Avs. Bednar fully rebuilt his fourth line and even gave Kaut a look in the team’s top six.
What you’re normally hoping for when you plug in three guys that are all fighting for jobs, is that they will be able to add some energy to the lineup. You’re hoping they’ll hound pucks, skate hard, and help make life difficult for the opposing team.
Well, none of that happened early on. Not sure if it was the blending of line combinations, or what, but the Avs really got outworked in the first period of this game.
The Jets came out early and jumped all over Colorado. They were first to loose pucks, they were more physical, and they were generating much higher quality chances, and it didn’t take long for the Avs to find themselves in some trouble.
Sam Girard got beat wide, and while trying to recover, got called for tripping just past the five-minute mark of the opening frame, and let’s just say the penalty kill is still a problem.
After way-too-freely moving the puck all around the zone, Jets forward Sam Gagner was able to whack at a bouncing puck in the slot to chop one past Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev.
You expected an immediate push back from the Avs, that’s basically what we’ve consistently seen from them for the better part of the last two years.
Not tonight though, that opening goal only seemed to tilt the ice more heavily in Winnipeg’s favor.
The Jets just kept pushing, eventually running the shot discrepancy up to 10-2 in their favor.
About seven minutes after Gagner’s goal, Martin Kaut and Cole Perfetti got tangled up along the wall and exchanged hacks and slashes, both earning themselves two minutes in the box.
On the ensuing 4-on-4, Winnipeg’s Neal Pionk got loose in the slot and banged home a one-timer to stretch the visitor lead to 2-0.
I’m going to pause here for a second, because guys like Martin Kaut are the focus in these early-season games. I really didn’t have a huge problem with the penalty itself, honestly… I thought Kaut got the raw end of the deal on this particular exchange. Perfetti took a “retaliatory” swing as Kaut was skating away, and the ref took them both anyways.
It was a super unfortunate outcome all around for Kaut on this particular play, he just can’t afford to be wasting valuable on-ice minutes in the box. Again, I don’t think he really deserved to be penalized there, but still, he’s got to avoid that.
The back-to-back tallies from the Jets would stand as the only goals in the first twenty minutes, and the Avs had plenty to clean up before the middle frame started.
I’ve talked about it several times on podcasts since the Stanley Cup Final, but it always seems relevant in situations like this. The national media was infatuated with the Avalanche’s ability to comeback in games. Not just that they had the ability to overcome scoring deficits, but rather how calm and collected they were as a team in the face of adversity, and their ability to adjust when things weren’t working.
It all comes back to Jared Bednar’s philosophy of breaking the game down into five-minute chunks. To be clear, that’s not something that is exclusive to Bednar’s way of thinking but he has his team bought into it maybe better than any other team in the league.
All that matters is the next five minutes. You can’t do anything to change what has already happened, you just have to focus on winning the next five minutes.
That’s exactly what the Avs did.
The start of the second period looked like a different team, starting with the top line, who put on an absolute clinic in the offensive zone. For the first time all night, they had Winnipeg chasing in their own end.
A slick passing play from Cale Makar, to Devon Toews, to Nathan MacKinnon, finished off right in front by Mikko Rantanen. Off, running, and on the board.
Give the Jets big credit here, once this Avalanche team smells blood in the water, they can be hard to stop. I felt like the game skated pretty evenly for the next two five-minute segments, and the Jets were even able to regain the two-goal lead before the halfway mark of the game when Perfetti got lost behind the defenders in front and had a wide-open look at the net backdoor.
As a quick side note, Perfetti’s second period goal was the first even-strength goal that Georgiev has given up this season. The more you know.
As time was winding down in the period, and the Avs staring down the barrel of a multi-goal deficit, the urgency really picked up. Bednar shortened his bench a bit, and the team’s top guys made things happen.
Another extended shift in the offensive zone for the Avs, lead to another tic-tac-toe goal off the stick of Mikko Rantanen, cutting the lead to just one.
You knew what was going to happen next as soon as the puck dropped for play to resume. The Avs were everywhere, it felt like they just went right to controlling the zone after the goal.
Eventually, it was big Val Nichushkin who beat his man to the front of the net, took a pass from behind the night and beat Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for the equalizer.
It was a good reminder of how good this team is, and how you can’t take your foot off the gas against them for a second. In the blink of an eye, the Avs erased a two-goal deficit and had things all even heading into the third period.
The third was a fast-paced, high-intensity period, a nice change from some of the early-season sluggishness we’ve seen. Despite that, not a ton happened that was all that eventful. The teams traded chances, and both goalies had their moments. Eventually, though, we were gifted some free hockey in the form of overtime.
There really isn’t much to say about OT, after all… it lasted just 31 seconds.
A quick look for the Avs, then an odd-man rush the other way for the Jets. Pionk absolutely hammered home his second of the game, with a slap shot from the right circle, and that was all she wrote.
A strong come-from-behind effort for the Avalanche fell short, and the PK struggled again. Some good that you can take away, some bad.
There was a frustrated vibe in the locker room after, these guys have a high standard for themselves. They don’t come into games looking for just one point.
Lots that they can clean up, and they’ll have a chance to do just that against the Seattle Kraken on Friday night.
One last note, Jayson Megna and Anton Blidh were reassigned to the Colorado Eagles right after the game tonight.