The Colorado Avalanche’s best players put the team in a big hole Monday night with some suspect work without the puck.
Then they reminded everyone of how quickly they can turn a game with their offensive firepower.
Colorado yielded four goals in an ugly second period, but rallied for a 6-5 victory that was far more about the result than the overall process. The Avs had lost five of six before this, but one strong period bailed them out.
“We felt like we were outplaying them, and (coach Jared Bednar) came in and agreed with us,” Avs center Nathan MacKinnon said. “It feels like every mistake we make right is costing us, so we have to be careful. … It felt like we had generated a lot of chances and could have been up. We had a lot of belief.”
The Avs scored three times in 4:10 during the third to erase a 5-3 deficit. Ross Colton scored on a broken play to pull the Avalanche within one.
Mikko Rantanen scored a goal for the first time in 10 games to tie it up. It was a greasy one, a rebound of a Cale Makar shot with multiple bodies around the crease. Then MacKinnon got in behind the Calgary defense for the game winner with 4:30 left.
“I think it was important,” Makar said. “Obviously you don’t always want it to be a shootout, but … it’s good to build that confidence knowing that regardless of how many goals we’re down, we can come back. I think that’s something we lacked at the beginning of the year. When we would get down a couple goals, we kind of backed down. For us, it was a big character win and shows where everybody’s hearts are at.”
If this night wasn’t wild enough, Rantanen had some pointed comments after the game. Artturi Lehkonen’s father, Ismo, is a hockey analyst for Yle, a national media outlet in Finland.
Ismo Lehkonen was quoted in a Yle story Monday morning, connecting Rantanen’s recent slump to a bad offseason.
“One of our Finnish NHL player’s dad was talking (expletive) about me in media, that I didn’t train last summer like I used to,” Rantanen told reporters after the game. “He was making things up. That was for him.
“If you talk (expletive), it’s going to come back at you.”
One of Bednar’s talking points over the past two days was turnovers and yielding scoring chances off them. Most of the mistakes he was referencing were happening on the other team’s side of the ice, but Colorado’s top players coughed up the puck on their side before former Avalanche center Nazem Kadri opened the scoring.
Devon Toews tried a long cross-ice pass to Rantanen that was broken up. Rantanen had two chances to get the Avs out of danger, but his pass was intercepted by Blake Coleman and he fed Kadri for a shot from the high slot.
The Colorado players felt like they weren’t making that many mistakes, but there were several in the middle period that ended up in the Avalanche net.
Andrew Mangiapane and Yegor Sharangovich scored goals on coverage busts in the high-danger area in front of Alexandar Georgiev. Connor Zary batted one out of the air after the Avs won a defensive-zone faceoff had a chance to clear the puck but could not. Blake Coleman scored on a relatively straightforward rush play.
Georgiev allowed five goals on 22 shots before being replaced by Ivan Prosvetov for the final period.
There were other positives at the offensive end. Tomas Tatar scored his first goal of the season after a great play from Ross Colton. Makar scored the club’s first power-play goal in 17 opportunities. Ben Meyers added a fourth-line tally in his first game with the Avs this season.
If there is a silver lining with the defensive miscues on this particular night, it’s that Colorado’s best players were at fault. Makar was on the ice for four of Calgary’s goals. Toews, MacKinnon and Rantanen were out there for three.
Those players have earned the benefit of the doubt in the big picture. And they were largely the ones who propelled the Avs to a dramatic comeback victory.
“That’s been a little bit of a trend. They carry our team, and yet they’ve been making some big mistakes that are ending up in the back of our net,” Bednar said. “There’s a high level of trust from me. They have to understand that some of the mistakes or decisions we make are unacceptable, but they’re still going to be able to get rope to go play the way they can.”