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You don’t get a seven-game winning streak without having some good fortune on your side. After games in which they were arguably outplayed but got enough breaks to find their way to wins against Carolina and Nashville over the weekend, it was finally time to pay the good luck piper.
Colorado outshot and outplayed the Anaheim Ducks for the majority of the game but hit five posts along the way and couldn’t find a fourth goal to complete the comeback in a 4-3 overtime loss.
Given these two teams played to a 1-0 finish in Anaheim, this matchup provided significantly more fireworks both on the scoreboard and on the ice with the physicality.
Multiple skirmishes and one fight highlighted the rough stuff but a Rickard Rakell goal with 1.2 seconds left in overtime proved to be the final punch delivered on the evening. The goal came just seconds after Tyson Jost couldn’t get a shot off on a breakaway because the puck just kept bouncing on him.
“I had an opportunity on the breakaway there and the puck just rolled from our blueline all the way to the net,” Jost said. “I just couldn’t get it to sit down and get a good shot away. Then they obviously go down and score.”
It was a heartbreaking finish after Colorado dominated overtime, an area they have badly struggled during the Jared Bednar era. Despite outshooting Anaheim 7-5 in overtime and having two clean breakaways (the other by Sam Girard), the Avs just couldn’t finish.
“It was very good,” Jost said of his team’s play in OT. “We had a ton of chances. We out-chanced them for sure, I mean two breakaways? Same with Girard’s, the puck just wouldn’t sit down and kept rolling the whole time. It’s frustrating. We did a great job of battling back there and unfortunate we couldn’t get the two points.”
The loss ended Colorado’s seven-game winning streak that was bookended by 4-3 overtime losses to Tampa Bay and Anaheim, giving them a point streak of nine games. They have accumulated 16 of their last 18 possible points during that streak.
Jost’s game was strong again as his post-deadline tear continued with two more assists tonight, giving him 22 points on the season and moving him past Matt Nieto and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. He now sits just four behind the career-high 26 he set last year.
“My game has been building up to this point,” Jost said. “Even before when I wasn’t getting points, I think I was still playing well. I knew it was going to come soon. It’s obviously nice.”
But the sting of the loss was, naturally, the overriding emotion just minutes after the loss.
“It sucks and I hate to lose, especially when you have chances like that,” Jost added. “They score with just over one second, it’s hard to swallow.
It is tough. We wanted to get that win and keep this thing going. I’m happy with how I’m playing and I want to keep it up. The work doesn’t stop here. I’ve got to keep that going, keep pushing each and every day to get better.”
Jost’s game wasn’t the only that stood out as captain Gabe Landeskog had a three-point night (1g, 2a) as he continued his recent offensive surge.
The superstar at the center of it all, Nathan MacKinnon, came up biggest when the Avs needed a lift in the third period trailing 3-2. He took a Landeskog feed and ripped through the neutral zone and blew a puck past Ryan Miller’s glove for his first goal since the loss against Tampa Bay on February 17.
MacKinnon’s goal erased the one-goal deficit the Avs faced entering the third period, which was just their 15th time entering the third trailing. The Avs only have one win in that situation but tonight was their third overtime loss.
Ripping off a string of one-goal victories and now pushing a game they were losing into OT is just another feather in the cap of a team trying to continue its evolution from high-scoring juggernaut who had to outscore their problems.
“We’re building every day,” Jost said. “We know where we want to be at the end of that regular season. Each and every point matters. We want to keep getting better and build our game into the playoffs. Hopefully, we’re flying and buzzing into the playoffs.”
The Avs head right back on the road as they head out west to for another three-game trip. They exit the evening trailing the St. Louis Blues by two points but have one game in hand. Their lead over the Dallas Stars is now six points and they are even in games played.
- The injury bug just won’t slow down for the Avs. While Grubauer, Kadri, and Rantanen skated during the morning skate, their timelines remain week-to-week. Calvert and Wilson still aren’t skating and now Makar and Burakovsky won’t join the Avs on this road trip as their injuries are just taking longer than expected to heal. Colorado’s injury issues will force them to turn to an emergency call-up from the Eagles as they head back to the road.
- It’s been a slow burn for a while now but I’ve really liked Joonas Donskoi the last two games. He was really good again tonight and could have easily had a hat trick given the quality of opportunities he got. He was buzzing around the ice and though his best chances were the result of great plays from teammates, he was still doing all the right things. It would’ve been nice to see him actually finish one and get going on the right side of the offense again. The only goal I remember him scoring that wasn’t in the shootout was a deflection a couple of weeks ago. Seeing him actually beat a goalie would be great.
- Nikita Zadorov was benched tonight after being on the ice for all three of Anaheim’s regulation goals. He simply didn’t play very well and the third goal was certainly terrible optics with him skating away from the goal-scorer and to the far side of the post where he wasn’t really covering anything. You can argue it wasn’t his assignment but it certainly looked bad with them getting scored on right at the end of a penalty kill with his back turned to the play. That was it for him as he played just 7:58 on the evening.
- It was a very physical game as the Ducks clearly decided that going through the Avs was the way to go. They outhit Colorado 33-21. I don’t tend to think it was a big deal because Colorado played a solid game despite that but you’d like to see one their more physical guys in Zadorov raise his level in that situation. The biggest selling point of Zadorov patrolling Colorado’s blue line is his physicality but ever since the broken jaw earlier this year, he simply hasn’t been the same. When he had the bubble on and couldn’t fight, it was understandable why he wasn’t stepping into guys like normal. But that bubble has been gone for a while and so has the intimidating presence of Zadorov. That’s not to say he’s been ineffective that entire time because he hasn’t been; he simply hasn’t brought the same physical presence he previously was and that’s one of his greatest strengths.
- All of the signs were there for MacKinnon to get on the board in this one. He chucked his stick into the stands during the morning skate and smashed another stick into the boards during the game. Some may find it off-putting but like John McEnroe, MacKinnon is at his best when he’s playing with an anger to his game. I’d been feeling recently like he was just playing too passively and wasn’t in his normal mindset of knowing he’s the best player on the ice at all times. He was just too deferential and not creating as quality of chances as he’s capable of. He was a beast tonight and the goal in the third was huge.
- Landeskog keeps on keeping on. Love to see him figuring it out like this in the second half of what has been a very difficult season. The prevailing “Dad Theory” sure looks good right now. Look for more on him tomorrow from Evan Rawal.
- Just the 15th game out of 66 in which Colorado has entered the third trailing. That’s the lowest in the NHL with Tampa Bay and Boston tied for second with 19. They may not be a great comeback team but their lack of having to do it after two periods is not irrelevant. This just isn’t a team that finds itself constantly having to play from behind. As they near the postseason, you can either take that to mean if they get down in the playoffs, it’s over. Or you can take it to mean they don’t let teams get the jump on them very often. 15 out of 66 games is just 22% of the time, which comes out to just once during a seven-game series. That’s a good habit to carry over into the postseason and it will be interesting to see how often they end up in that position.
- Beating NHL goalies is hard to do. Colorado did it eight times tonight, with five of them drawing iron instead of net. That’s hockey.