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Residents of the Denver Metro area woke up this morning to find a thick layer of wet, heavy snow blanketing their cars, streets, sidewalks, and pretty much everything else. It was a winter storm that was definitely expected, but maybe a little under-promised.
As all pro-winter folk avoid mentioning when trying to defend this frigid season, the storm made the roads an absolute mess this morning as everyone began their morning commutes. I ended up having to dig out my fiancee, twice, just so she could get to work. She works in pediatrics, so it was slightly more pressing for her to get to work over me being at morning skate on time.
Given that we just got a good injury report from Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar two days ago in Arizona, I wasn’t expecting there to be many updates this morning as the team prepared to welcome in the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
As suspected, there wasn’t really any new news to report, but there almost was.
Ryan Boulding of NHL.com reported that Erik Johnson took a puck to the hand and left the AM practice in some distress. It was said initially that he didn’t have an update on him, leaving us to have to wait until game time to find out if Colorado’s already bad injury luck had reached hilarious new heights.
Thankfully for the Avs, it appears as though it was just something of a stinger for Johnson, and he was good to go by the time warmups rolled around.
It was Erik Johnson who told me after the game in Tempe that he felt like that 6-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes was one of the worst games the team has played in quite a while, and I agree with him. The Avs really needed a bounce-back performance tonight. Obviously, you want to win, and this team isn’t really big on “moral victories”, but I wanted to see a game where they shake off a bad performance and get back to their standard of play.
The team is beat up and, as of this week, back to dealing with a super-depleted top-six. So you understand that there’s some context, but you just can’t have games like what you had in Arizona, which was not a talent issue.
While I thought the start of this game was better for the Avs, it wasn’t by much. Just poor decision-making, sloppy with the puck on their sticks, and making it too easy on LA’s Pheonix Copley in net.
The Kings’ Gabe Vilardi broke the ice just before the halfway mark of the opening frame, capping off a really nice play by Jaret Anderson-Dolan with a beautiful shot.
Aside from that one, I thought Georgiev was really good in that first period. He made a number of saves (three in particular that I can think of) that were huge to keep the Avalanche in the game. The period ended with them trailing 1-0, and without Georgiev in net, it could have been way worse.
The second period started, and at the beginning, I didn’t think the Avalanche had adjusted enough to truly make a difference in the game. A little better, but still just too much of the sloppiness that we had seen early on in the first period.
They needed a jolt. Something to give them a shot win the arm… and at the 3:16 mark, they got it in the form of a power play.
The man-advantage did NOT start well. Failed zone entries, and forced passes led to almost nothing in terms of shot attempts in the first 60 seconds being up a man. They were finally able to get the puck deep and get there in time to make it a winnable puck.
While the board battle was going on, Cale Makar went for a change and was replaced by Devon Toews. Toews had to race from the bench to keep the puck in the zone after it came off the wall. Toews barely kept it on the right side of the blue line, Rantanen chipped it right into the slot for Rodrigues, then it was a tic-tac-goal finish with J.T. Compher capping off a beautiful passing play by just tapping the puck into a wide-open net.
So the game was even at 1-1, but it really didn’t feel like there was much energy in the building, and the Avs really still didn’t look a ton better to me immediately.
It was pretty back and forth, with the Avs still giving up some quality chances against. A penalty to Mikko Rantanen put Colorado down a man just a couple of minutes past the halfway point of the middle frame.
After a huge hit from Sam Girard on Viktor Arvidsson, the Kings’ forward jumped up, made a great pass and put his team back in the lead.
Avalanche forward Andrew Cogliano was really not happy with giving up that goal, visibly showing some frustration after the puck hit the net.
He channeled that frustration in a positive way though, as almost two minutes exactly after surrendering a goal while shorthanded, Cogliano picked up the puck in the neutral zone, raced down the near-side wall, and blew one past Copley and even the game once again. This time at 2-2.
Less than a minute later, Cale Makar picked off an attempted Kings breakout pass, bolted through the neutral zone, and cut into the middle of ice before snapping one back across the grain to beat Copley. It was Colorado’s first lead of the game.
You could tell that for the first time in a couple of weeks, the Avs were playing with some real confidence and had some actual offensive momentum and with just a little bit more than one minute left, they capitalized yet again.
We talk often on the DNVR Avalanche Podcast about what an unbelievable luxury it is for this Avs team to have as many elite players as they do. There are plenty of games you can point to over the last two seasons where they didn’t maybe have their ‘A’ game but were able to squeak out wins because their best players were just better than the guys on the other side.
In short, elite players can make elite plays, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Fresh off of his first show-stopping play of the game, Makar made a great play at the blue line to gain the zone, circled the net before finding Rantanen right in front. Rantanen made a ridiculous pass to Rodrigues backdoor, who tucked it home.
There was real life in the building for the first time all night, and it was Colorado’s first real offensive explosion in weeks. It felt like they were going to cruise to a victory.
What’s the old saying, don’t count your chickens before they hatch?
A really weird penalty call kicked off the third period and opened the door for an LA Kings comeback bid.
I'll be honest, I really don't understand that penalty call. If the puck was going out, call the delay of game. I don't see how Brad Hunt knocking the puck out of the air as it goes flying towards the bench is in any way "interference".
I'll be honest, I really don't understand that penalty call. If the puck was going out, call the delay of game. I don't see how Brad Hunt knocking the puck out of the air as it goes flying towards the bench is in any way "interference".— Jesse Montano (@jessemontano_) December 30, 2022
Alex Iafallo got the Kings within one, and they were able to keep the Avs off the scoresheet on the other end long enough to eventually get it all evened up in the final minutes of regulation.
Once again, the Avalanche were destined for OT.
It was maybe the slowest-moving overtime I’ve ever seen. It’s official, the fun has been coached out of 3-on-3. Give LA credit, they play a really tight man-on-man, and don’t give up much.
Neither team generated much of anything threatening for the full five minutes other than one Cale Makar rush that resulted in a rebound hopping over his stick. We needed a shootout to decide this one.
Look, given the injuries, I’m sure the Avs were happy to get even one point after the way they started this game, but the reality is that they had a multi-goal lead heading into the final frame, and now found themselves in a coin-flip shootout trying to steal the extra point.
LA scored twice, and the Avalanche went 0-for-2 and that was all she wrote.
Jared Bednar said after the game that he really didn’t have a huge problem with the team’s third period, but he just felt that the two goals they gave up were “too easy.” I agree, too often tonight the Avs didn’t make things difficult enough.
One more game before the calendar flips over to 2023, and it’ll be a real test as the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town on New Year’s Eve.