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Avs fall flat in 5-3 loss to Anaheim

Meghan Angley Avatar
January 27, 2023

Morning skate was a buzz with news of the new arrival, Matt Nieto. Nieto was acquired yesterday in a trade that exchanged Jacob MacDonald and Martin Kaut for Nieto and defensive prospect, Ryan Merkley.

Additionally, Denis Malgin rejoined the Avs lineup after nursing an upper-body injury, and it was announced that Val Nichushkin would miss tonight’s game with an upper-body injury of his own.

Cale Makar was also confirmed to be back in. Pavel Francouz got the start in net. The Avs hosted the struggling Anaheim Ducks who sat at the bottom of the Pacific with 33 points and a 4-5-1 record in their last ten games.

First Period

Four minutes into its start Cale Makar sent the puck toward the net, and Devon Toews redirected it. The puck bounced off John Gibson and right to Mikko Rantanen streaking into the side of the crease. Rantanen lifted it in to get the Avs on the board first.

At 9:46 into the period, Frank Vatrano picked the puck up at center ice in transition. He fired a shot on net and collected his own rebound for the tying goal.

Colorado outshot Anaheim 18-7 in this frame. The Avs controlled possession by a large margin, but they made some silly decisions with the puck in the offensive zone. They created significantly more chances, but it was a run-and-gun style of hockey. Anaheim got four dangerous chances of their own.

Second Period

Early into the period, Rodrigues activated Nathan MacKinnon up high and MacKinnon pulled up and sent a pass across the slot to Sam Girard coming in on the opposite side. Girard lifted the puck past Gibson 1:13 into the first.

At 7:40, Rantanen drew a tripping penalty and Colorado went on the powerplay. Right after it finished, John Gibson was called for a delay of game penalty due to intentionally moving the net off its moorings.

On the subsequent powerplay, Rantanen reset to Girard and the blueline and Girard sent it back to Rantanen parked in the right circle. As he does, Rantanen fired a one-timer past Gibson gloveside.

Late in the period, Vatrano sent a shot on net and was able to take another whack at it again on the rebound. Erik Johnson attempted to collect that rebound, but it slipped away from him behind the net and Vatrano regained possession. He wrapped around the netfront and banged away at it until it went in off Francouz’s back.

Chances were created more closely this period. Colorado continued to outshoot Anaheim however 13-11 with six to their five dangerous chances.

Third Period

At 1:54, Nieto hooked Troy Terry and went to the box. Colorado withstood the penalty kill.

Midway through the period, Anaheim dumped the puck into the Avs end. Troy Terry claimed it along the boards and got by MacDermid. He dished the puck across the crease through Brad Hunt who tried to make the block. Henrique banged it in to tie the game at 9:42 into the period.

Twenty-four seconds later, Anaheim won a faceoff in their end and dumped the puck out to begin their transition. Mason McTavish entered alone on Makar and snapped the puck from the top of the circle and beat Francouz clean. The Ducks gained a lead for the first time this game.

At 6:18, Avs had possession of the puck but was play was stopped due to Artturi Lehkonen’s high stick. Colorado went on the kill. In its opening seconds, Cogliano had perfect stick placement and cleared the puck. Moments later, Anaheim looked dangerous after a rebound stayed in play around the net, but Cogliano cleared the puck again and the kill was successful.

Colorado had a good chance to tie it on a valiant netfront effort from J.T. Compher. Logan O’Connor also had a chance at a wide open net, but the efforts fell short.

With the net empty, Vatrano completed the hat trick with 49.7 seconds left. Anaheim beat Colorado 5-3.

The shots finished 44-32 in favor of the Avalanche, but the third period was their undoing. They controlled possession through the first two periods, but did not enter the third period with enough urgency. Colorado won the special teams battle, the faceoff battle, the shots battle, but ineffort just for ten minutes cost them similar to the couple minute breakdown in the 4-2 loss to Vancouver earlier this month. 


Full 60 effort: “We made some mental mistakes, but it was work-based.” Jared Bednar said, “They outworked us for the first ten minutes [of the third period]. They dialed it up. They’re chasing the game. They’re down 3-2 with a chance to win it on the road and we didn’t play with the same urgency, intensity, and physicality that we needed to in order to win the hockey game.”

“I liked the first two periods a lot,” he added. “(I didn’t like that) there are some habits that are creeping into our game whether it’s for five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes.”

“I don’t care who you’re playing. You have to play 60 minutes in order to win a hockey game.”

Without Josh Manson, Bo Byram, Gabriel Landeskog, and Val Nichushkin, the Avs don’t have the firepower to rest on their laurels for any stretch of the game. Their lineup is good enough to win games presently – we just watched them string together six straight. The issue is the inability to dominate games the way they can when fully healthy.

It’s why process is important. It’s risk mitigation and nobody can take shifts off. The Avs were the stronger team for a significant amount of this game, but Anaheim is a young, opportunistic team. Everyone will want to claw at the reigning champions.

Additionally, if your goaltender isn’t 100% on, the risk is even greater. Francouz came up with 15 saves on high-to-medium danger chances (28 total saves on 32 shots), but he probably wished he had the first Vatrano and McTavish goal back.

Matt Nieto’s debut: Overshadowed in this will be the promise of Matt Nieto’s tomorrow. In his return debut, Nieto slotted in on the fourth line and alongside the second line with J.T. Compher and Mikko Rantanen. He played 13:51, generated two shots on net to include a high-danger chance, and stepped into the lineup well enough for someone who just landed in Denver this morning.

His presence gives the Avs much-needed options in their forward group including the possibility of a real fourth line that can give players like Ben Meyers a fighting chance.

“He’s one of the guys that I liked tonight,” said Bednar. “He’s another one of those guys that relies on the structure of the game. He’s always going to do the right thing. He’s hard on pucks. He’s a veteran guy, he understands it. He’s always shown that if you give him a checking role, he can step into that. A very trusted guy and he can help make plays with offensive players. We’ve seen that from him in the past. He has a good north-attack, linear speed.”


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