Colorado Avalanche forward John Mitchell went from being a healthy scratch on Sunday to a inspiring goalscorer on Tuesday.
The turnaround was significant in that Mitchell helped propel the club to an outstanding start tin its meeting with the St. Louis Blues at Pepsi Center. However, the momentum couldn't be sustained and the home team fell 4-2.
"It's always nice when you can come in and contribute and score a goal and get the team started in the right direction at the beginning of the game," Mitchell said. "So that's always good, but at the end of the day you want two points."
For the second contest in a row, the Avs had a dominating start that saw them pressuring their opponent with relentless fervor. Yet just like so many times before, things started to unravel after the halfway point of the match.
Video: Postgame interview with John Mitchell
"We played really well for a large portion of that game. I think that's been kind of happening here lately, just in the third period we give up too many chances and they put pucks in the back of the net," said Mitchell. "Then we're starting to come from behind, and it's hard. But overall we played a pretty good game, except for a couple minutes."
The Blues scored at the 16:50 mark of the middle stanza to even the match and then tallied twice by the 8:44 point of the final frame to turn the momentum around.
"The first two periods, we played well. Then the third period rolls around, and they score that one right as the power play expires," Mitchell said. "We kill that penalty fairly well. We had some sticks right in there, it's just unfortunate they were able to get that shot off and get that puck in the back of the net.
"It's pretty evident out there that we tighten up a little bit when we give up a goal. It's one thing to give up one goal but two, then you're really behind the eight ball. You give up one and you got to lock that down and push to the last minute to try and get another one, if that's the case. So we got to clean those things up."
Video: Mark Barberio discusses the Avs' game vs. the Blues
A key factor in the comeback was untimely, unlucky or even unnecessary penalties--St. Louis converted three seconds after an interference call on Blake Comeau came to an end 5:05 into the third period.
"They got some momentum off their power play, and they didn't score on their PP but I think their next shot, when it turned 5-on-5, they got their goal," rear guard Mark Barberio said. "It kind of set us back a little, but I still think we battled hard right 'til the end and tried getting bodies and pucks to the net."
There was no quit to the Avalanche, which fought back to make it a 3-2 contest when Barberio buried one with 5:10 left to play. Nathan MacKinnon even had the possible equalizer go off the crossbar and out of play as Colorado pushed back against the Blues.
"I thought every line that was going out there was trying to get that next goal. We were getting pucks in deep, we were forechecking them hard and that's where the goal came off of," Barberio said. "We got it in deep, Carl [Soderberg] did a great job of forcing a turnover and we just kept throwing pucks at the net and it went in. It's not a complicated formula. We just got to keep building on that."
Head coach Jared Bednar admitted he was pleased with the overall effort on Tuesday. It was the result that was unfortunate, as it didn't reflect the Avalanche's hard work.
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar on the loss to the Blues
"I thought our guys played really hard tonight, both ends of the rink. We came out jumping, lot of good chances. [Jake Allen] was good in net, and we missed on a couple opportunities--that flurry in the second period. They had one of their own, but we had a flurry in the second period there where we were putting pucks to the net. It looked like the net was empty a few times and we missed. We just kept staying on the puck, and we had some good extended zone time in there. Just couldn't find a way to go up more than one, and we knew that was going to be crucial.
"It was a physical game. It was a rough game. I liked the way we pushed back. I thought there was a lot of positives tonight. Unfortunately, it finishes the same way the last two have with us losing it in the third period, but we got to continue to push and play like that and keep trying to move forward. I liked the effort from our group."
With just 10 games remaining in the 2016-17 season, building a 50-minute effort into one that can sustain a complete contest is something both the coaching staff and the players are working toward. Bednar said as much following Tuesday's morning skate and the team echoed the sentiment following the loss.
"It's important to play spoiler and also have good habits right until the end of the season, because that's going to carry over to next year's training camp and next year's season. So it's important that we keep battling hard," said Barberio. "I think it takes preparation, mental preparation and focus throughout the game. You're going to have ups and downs throughout a game. Sometimes you're going to have some shifts where you're playing prolonged in the D-zone, but it's important to just stick with it and stick to our system."
John Mitchell registered a goal and an assist for his first multipoint game of the season. He also recorded two hits, two blocked shots and was 3-for-3 on faceoffs.
With the primary assist on Mitchell's first-period marker, Blake Comeau has now registered a point in five consecutive home games. His seven points (one goal, six assists) through the Avalanche's last seven contests at Pepsi Center are tops on the team in that span.