The first step of fixing a mistake is figuring out what is wrong.
The Colorado Avalanche seems to know where to begin in doing just that after losing 3-1 to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Saturday night. Colorado didn't have enough fire in the opening two periods and was playing a desperate club in Dallas, which looked the part as it tried to bounce back from a 1-3-0 record to begin the season.
"We just wanted to outcompete them, and we didn't do that," said Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon. "We knew they were going to be hungry. They didn't get out to the best start. We have more to give."
The Stars finished with a 36-23 edge in shots on goal, but that was after the Avalanche got 11 pucks on Denver-born goalie Ben Bishop in the third frame. Colorado managed only 12 combined shots in the first two periods.
Colorado received a taste of its own medicine after outplaying the Anaheim Ducks in a 4-1 win on Friday night in Denver. The Avs arrived in Texas early Saturday morning, but it doesn't seem like anyone on the team is justifying its sloppy play early on because of their first back-to-back set of the season.
"We're not going to make any excuses, but I didn't like the way we skated the first two periods," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "Not just the way we skated, but our energy was down. We just weren't as competitive on the puck as we were in previous games."
Forward Matt Duchene noted the team didn't get a chance to be tired because it didn't compete hard enough in the first two periods.
"I think the third period we showed what type of team we could be, but it is too little too late then," Duchene said. "Obviously, they get that empty-netter and we make it a close game, but if we have that work ethic start to finish--maybe we let our foot off the gas a little bit, 'oh, we're 4-1, we can give 40 of this one away.' But you can't afford to give any away in this league."
Duchene scored the Avalanche's only marker of the night, as he quickly unleashed a wrist shot from the left circle that beat Bishop near side just 1:26 into the final period.
Colorado had a solid final frame as it finished with an 11-8 advantage in shots on goal and had three more 5-on-5 shot attempts than Dallas (14-11).
"I'll give our team credit, I loved the way we answered back in the third period," Bednar said. "We got real competitive. We got stronger on pucks. We put more pucks to the net."
Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov played another solid game in the crease and kept the score manageable for the team to attempt a comeback, but he was still saddled with his first loss of the young season. He denied 33 shots after facing 14 pucks in both the first and second period.
There is no need to press the panic button at this time of the season for the Avalanche. The club was coming off three consecutive wins and is still 4-2-0 on the new campaign.
The season is not even two weeks old, and the present reality for the Avs--and really every team in the league--is to build their game so they're the best version of themselves night in and night out.
"It's a good learning lesson for this group," Bednar said. "It's a different group then last year, but now it is the first time we've realized that we didn't leave it all on the line for 60 minutes and that's something we need to do every night."
Colorado will get a chance to show what it learned Tuesday when it closes its road trip at the Nashville Predators, a club that made it to the Western Conference Final last year but has begun the year similar to Dallas with 2-2-1 record.
NEMETH RETURNED TO DALLAS
Avalanche blueliner Patrik Nemeth served his first penalty minutes of the season after he wrestled his former teammate Tyler Seguin at 3:59 of the third period and received a five-minute infraction for fighting.
"I am sure he was fired up," Duchene said after the game. "He was playing. He had a solid game for us tonight, he played really hard."
Nemeth was playing his former club for the first time after Colorado claimed the defenseman on waivers from the Stars just two days before the season started. Nemeth was drafted by Dallas in the fourth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and had spent his entire career with the Stars organization.
Ever since joining the Avs he has been paired with Tyson Barrie and has three points (all assists) in his first six games with Colorado. He entered tonight's game ranked second on the team in plus-7 rating.
BARRIE STRONG AGAINST STARS
During a delayed penalty on the Stars, Tyson Barrie swiftly fed the puck to Duchene for a hard one-timer past Ben Bishop and continued his success against the club's Central Division rival.
His assist on the marker was the defenseman's 18th point (five goals, 13 assists) in 18 outings against the Stars and he is the only active rearguard in the league who is averaging at least a point-per-game against Dallas.
He leads the Avalanche this season with two game-winning goals and leads all defenseman in points (five).