The Colorado Avalanche tempted fate one too many times with rotten starts, and they finally came away empty-handed.
For the third game in a row, Colorado erased a two-goal deficit, but didn’t get any points in the standings to show for it for the first time in that stretch. The Arizona Coyotes outlasted the Avalanche for a 3-2 win on Monday, giving Colorado back-to-back losses for just the second time this season.
Here’s three takeaways from Colorado’s third loss in March:
Deflections Doom Grubauer
All three goals scored by the Coyotes slipped past Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer off a deflected stick.
Derick Brassard’s power-play goal early in the first tipped off of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard’s stick. Arizona led 2-0 thanks to a knuckler by Jacob Chychrun that bounced of Devon Toews’ stick and over Grubauer’s shoulder.
Colorado was able to bounce back to tie the game on goals from Valeri Nichushkin and Andre Burakovsky, but they couldn’t complete the comeback because of Johan Larsson’s goal in the third period. Larsson knocked in a shot from Oliver Ekman-Larsson – deflecting the puck in off the shaft of his stick.
The Avalanche were easily the more dangerous team, particularly over the final two periods. Colorado outshot the Coyotes 35-14 in the game, and 26-10 over the final 40 minutes.
Grubauer didn’t have to do much work, as Arizona managed just 14 shots on goal. But three of them found their way past him, and Colorado has now lost back-to-back games for the second time this season. The 11 saves were his lowest since losing 5-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 23, 2019. He only played in the first period of that game.
Nichushkin Steps in for MacKinnon
Valeri Nichushkin was moved up to the top line in place of the injured Nathan MacKinnon, and Nichushkin has been doing a pretty good impression of the Avs superstar.
With MacKinnon sidelined the last three games with an upper-body injury, has racked up three goals and an assist. He has five goals on the season now – which ties with MacKinnon.
His goal on Monday was Colorado’s first of the game, and came off a great play by Nazem Kadri. MacKinnon is supposed to be back for Wednesday’s game against the Coyotes, but it most certainly helps to get Nichushkin rolling, as the depth lines need momentum more than anything right now.
Andre Burakovsky did an impression of MacKinnon on Monday, as well. Manning the point on the power play – a usual spot for MacKinnon – with Samuel Girard, Burakovsky notched a power-play goal that evened the game at 2-2 late in the second.
Before the last three games, Colorado had scored first in 15 of 19 contests. They gave up the first two goals in each of the last three contests. Nichushkin was able to bail them out in overtime on Friday against Anaheim for the 3-2 OT win, but they dropped Saturday’s contest, 5-4 in OT.
Avs’ Struggles Continue on Penalty Kill
For much of the season, the Avalanche have been one of the best penalty-killing teams in the NHL. That riddle has been solved.
Colorado allowed just two power-play goals, killing 27 of their 29 penalties, through the first nine home games of the season. Then the wheels fell off. From that penalty late in the third period on Saturday to early in the first on Monday, the Avalanche gave up goals on three consecutive penalty kills. The first two cost them a win. The third may have been the difference on Monday.
Colorado didn’t commit a penalty until late in the third period on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks, but the Avs gave up a goal on that one, and they lost the game on a power-play goal in overtime. On Monday, Brassard scored a power-play goal less than five minutes into the game to give Arizona a 1-0 lead.
The only successful penalty kill for the Avalanche came after overlapping penalties – and they only had to kill off 16 seconds. Colorado’s penalty kill led the NHL entering last weekend’s games against Anaheim. After Saturday’s late meltdown, the Avalanche dropped to fifth.
Colorado takes on Arizona again on Wednesday, before hosting the Los Angeles Kings for a pair this weekend.
Lifelong storyteller and experienced hockey reporter that has covered everything from major juniors to the NHL. Worked for various newspapers across Minnesota and North Dakota, and now covering the Colorado Avalanche for THW.