When the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks meet, the games almost always seem to be entertaining, back-and-forth thrillers.
"They play a great style of hockey," Avalanche forward Matt Duchene said of the club's Central Division rival. "They play an entertaining style of hockey, and I think we have guys on this team that like to play that style as well. When they play that way, we kind of play that way back. There are a lot of plays being made out there, so there are turnovers and lots of ice. It's usually fun to play against them."
Tuesday's game at Pepsi Center was no different.
The third matchup of the season between the Avs and Hawks featured plenty of jaw-dropping plays as the teams traded chances for most of the evening. Seven goals were scored on 33 total shots in the first two periods, and the Avs held a slim one-tally advantage heading into the final frame.
The Blackhawks turned up the intensity in the third stanza, and the Avs couldn't match it. Chicago scored three times and defeated Colorado 6-4.
"We did a good job offensively in the first 40 minutes, made some good plays, but we knew they were going to press in the third and we weren't ready for it and we came out flat," said Nathan MacKinnon. "So it is disappointing."
Video: MacKinnon on playing with a lead
For the second-straight outing, the Avalanche held a lead going into the final period, only to see it erased and then forced to climb out of a late deficit. Colorado led 2-1 at the second intermission on Saturday versus the Nashville Predators but ended up losing by one.
"We're not letting things get off the rails," Duchene said. "We're doing things to get the lead, but that's the next step as a team is trying to finish these games and it sucks right now."
Head coach Jared Bednar echoed the players' sentiment that to play so well and then lose the lead in the third period is frustrating.
"We're playing a good hockey game," Bednar said. "I thought the game was a lot of fun to that point, the first two periods; both teams playing hard, a lot of action. The fans were into it, both sides, you know what I mean. Good, hard-fought two periods, and then you make some mistakes and they put it in the back of the net, and it's game over."
Bednar said he liked what he saw from his top two lines, but it was his bottom six that was the difference. Colorado's third and fourth lines were on the ice for every goal against, except for Chicago's game-sealing empty-net marker with 11 seconds remaining.
"I thought our top guys were really good tonight. They were jumping and moving and creating chances and creating goals. Both of those lines," Bednar said. "But our third and fourth lines were not good enough. They got scored on five times. The top guys played more minutes, and they were good tonight. The bottom two lines didn't get the job done."
Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference
A positive note from the Avalanche's loss is that it scored four goals for the first time since Dec. 8 against the Boston Bruins, but the team is taking little solace in that fact after another two points lost in the standings.
"When you score four in this league, you should win," Duchene said. "You should keep enough out of your own net, and we didn't tonight."
"We need to have more of a killer instinct to try and finish it off and score six or seven and not try to protect it," MacKinnon said. "We're not used to playing with leads, so maybe that's why. We need to get more of them and be confident and press."
The Avs' record versus the Blackhawks now drops to 1-2-0 in the season series. The teams meet two more times this year, March 19 in Chicago and April 4 in Denver.
MULTI-GOAL GAME FOR DUCHENE
Matt Duchene has scored goals in bunches this season and he did it once again versus the Blackhawks, recording his team-leading 14th and 15th markers of the year.
Duchene tipped in Nathan MacKinnon's shot from the right circle at 7:39 of the first period to knot the contest at 1-1 and then gave the Avs a 4-3 lead after getting around the entire Hawks' team with 5:52 left in the second period. His second was a thing of beauty as he kept the puck wide coming down the right wall before cutting inside past a defender and placing a shot far-side, top shelf on goalie Corey Crawford.
Video: CHI@COL: Duchene goes coast-to-coast, roofs wrister
"That's a play I work on a lot, trying to drive wide, get under the stick and get a shot off," Duchene said. "It is one of those ones that everything kind of aligned on that one."
It was Duchene's fifth multi-goal game of the season, tied with Los Angeles' Jeff Carter and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the league lead. His 11 career markers versus Chicago are also tied for his most versus a single opponent.
Video: Duchene on scoring two goals
NIETO SCORES HIS FIRST
Matt Nieto scored his first goal in an Avalanche uniform on Tuesday, just three days after recording his first point with his new club. It was also his first marker of the year.
The forward, who was picked up on waivers on Jan. 5 from the San Jose Sharks, picked up the tally by attacking to the front of the net from the left corner and scoring with a backhand shot that went between the pads of Crawford.
The Long Beach, California, native made his Colorado debut on Jan. 6 against the New York Islanders and grabbed his first point with an assist on Saturday versus the Nashville Predators.
Video: CHI@COL: Nieto cuts to front, sweeps in backhand
MILESTONE GAME FOR BOURQUE
Avs forward Rene Bourque appeared in his 700th NHL contest, and he did it against his former club. Bourque played his first four professional seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks organization after signing in 2004 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Wisconsin.
"I'm proud of the career that I've had," Bourque said after Tuesday's morning skate. "I've lived my dream, and it's kind of cool to play against the first team I've played for, for 700."
Bourque is in his first campaign with Colorado after participating in training camp on a professional tryout.
The Lac La Biche, Alberta, native is third on the Avs in goals with nine, bringing his career total to 160 tallies and 311 points. His nine markers are his most since 2013-14 when he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens.