After another lengthy hiatus with terrible injury updates, the Colorado Avalanche traveled to the Pacific Northwest in hopes of keeping their recent momentum alive against the unfortunate Vancouver Canucks. After a quick start, the Avalanche took off half the game before finding enough firepower to do the job and seal a 4-2 win.
It was the guests who got on the board first at 7:17 thanks to a power play goal from Mikko Rantanen. In the first half of the first frame, the Avalanche were in full control, blasting Vancouver 9-1 at one point and keeping the home team on the ropes in an uproar. As we’ve seen way too many times this season, the Avalanche just stopped working and made a number of head bones that brought the Canucks back into play, as indicated by 12 shots apiece at the end of the first third.
The second period didn’t go much better, in fact Vancouver was the only team to score in the frame when Conor Garland took advantage of a full breakdown in defensive coverage at 8:52 to level the result. Vancouver gained a 15-7 shot advantage during this time and the Avalanche were lucky that their goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper was standing upright and had only let in one goal up to that point.
When the third third began, the Avalanche desperately needed the next hit and the exact opposite happened. After making his best brick impression in the 40th minute, Kuemper leaked a shot from Tucker Poolman at 1:30 and deflected into the back of the net as he dived back to knock it away. Now Vancouver had the 2-1 advantage.
That could have been the dagger that blew up the Avalanche, but the league’s worst penalty shot decided to show up. Nazem Kadri quickly rebounded the power play after 2:19 and thwarted the Canucks’ lead. JT Miller got angry and checked Kadri in the goalposts, but the umpires decided that in the scramble that followed, both Miller and Rantanen were guilty of berating each other.
To get the 4v4 going, Sam Girard Quinn Hughes smoked behind the net. This angered Hughes, and he broke his stick in a retaliatory check against Girard on the other end of the ice. This penalty was pronounced and the Avalanche made their opponent pay in 4v3 when Cale made Makar from the left circle at 3:12. Implosion completed and now the avalanche just had to hold the lead for the rest of the time.
It was a better effort when the Avalanche got back in the driver’s seat and mitigated a persistent sloppy game with at least a sense of urgency to end the game. Gabe Landeskog, who had a tough night himself, got the empty goal with a Rantanen steal and secured a 4-2 final in favor of Colorado.
Night-to-night line-up roulette certainly doesn’t help the Avalanche perform consistently, but their focus, execution, and work ethic have suffered far too much from game to game to not be a bright red flag. Getting that win will look great in the boxing score, but essentially spending half the game awarding two points to a team looking for an excuse to fire everyone just isn’t a good look or a lot of confidence that their problems are resolved forward.
Another ray of hope is Nazem Kadri, who continued his series of points to seven points with his third three-point appearance this season. Kadri looks a lot more engaged on both ends of the ice and is more confident with the puck, especially after a couple of goals. He’s now leading the team on 17 points, more than half of the 32 points he’s scored throughout the 2020/21 season.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel was a good fit for the most part as his forechecking and puck chasing were welcomed in the bottom six strikers. He had some inconsistent moments and some loss of the ball, especially in the second period with the rest of the team, but ended up on a good note in line with Kadri to end the game. Aube-Kubel ended with a little more than 10 minutes of ice time, a shot on goal, three hits, a goal conceded and a (rather cheap) penalty. Definitely something to build up as the avalanche injury issues and lack of forward depth should get him a long look.
The road trip ends with a very first meeting with the Seattle Kraken in their barn on Friday, November 19 at 8 p.m. MT exclusively on ESPN +.