The third period reared its ugly head once again to the Colorado Avalanche after the squad had played an "unreal hockey game" through the first two stanza, according to head coach Jared Bednar.
Colorado couldn't slow down the hungry Edmonton Oilers, who tallied five times in the third frame, and the Avalanche lost 7-4 at Pepsi Center on Thursday night.
"They scored a goal, and we stood around and it looked like we were scared to lose," said Bednar of his club's third period. "That's what happens, you lose. If you're not going to continue to play, you lose. We gave up some bad goals. I thought our goalie let in a couple bad goals in the third period, and we didn't continue to push. We didn't continue to play."
It has been a tough week for the Avs, as they've been within one goal, tied or had the lead entering the last frame in each of the past four games but have been unable to record a victory. Colorado has scored twice in those periods.
Rookie Mikko Rantanen, who tallied twice, was among the Avalanche players lost on words in describing the club's inability to finish contests.
"I don't have anything good," he said. "I don't know. It feels like it happens every game. We have the lead in the third period, and we just give up easy goals."
The first 40 minutes saw the Avalanche play one of its better outings of the year. The team was solid defensively and was getting good scoring chances and capitalizing on them.
The Avs survived the Oilers' first push but couldn't stop their second. Edmonton tied the contest 2-2 in the middle stanza, and Colorado came back swinging to regain its two-goal advantage heading into the final frame.
However, Edmonton--a team that is battling for the top spot in the Pacific Division--kept the pressure on following the second intermission and broke through with two markers in a matter 1:50 and the game was tied 4-all with more than 15 minutes to play.
"There is no reason for our team to be scared to lose. We've lost enough. We have nothing to lose," Bednar said. "We should be thriving in some of these moments. We're playing an unreal hockey game; we're making plays, scoring nice goals, we're in complete control of the game. We let them back in the game with a bad goal late in the first, they got one early in the second and we pushed back in the second period and made it 4-2. They got one in the third, and we didn't push back."
Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference
The final stanza wasn't all bad for Colorado. The Oilers had a power play with 10:23 remaining, but the Avalanche killed it off and gave itself a chance for the win in the closing minutes.
Edmonton's Drake Caggiula beat the home team to the 'W' as he recorded the game-winner with 2:11 left, and the Oilers added what were pretty much two "empty-net goals" at the end to secure the victory.
"I think they got momentum on that bad first goal in the third and they just rolled with it," said Colorado goaltender Jeremy Smith. "I thought we killed off their momentum with that penalty kill when it was 4-4, but then they got one on the rush and that was it."
Contests like these have been disheartening for the Avs, as the players are trying to finish the campaign strong and build good habits for 2017-18.
"It's a big game for [them], but it's a big game for us, too. It's building up for next year," Rantanen said. "That is what we're trying to do. These things can't happen."
The Avalanche will get a chance to redeem itself against the Oilers and end this string of tough third periods when the two teams meet again on Saturday in Edmonton to close out the home-and-home set and season series.
MACK'S MILESTONE ON MIKKO'S GOALS
Nathan MacKinnon reached the 200-career point mark as he assisted on both of Mikko Rantanen's scores on Thursday night.
His two helpers came in similar fashion, as he fed a cross-ice pass to the right circle for Rantanen, who then fired a snap shot past goaltender Cam Talbot both times.
"Tonight, I thought MacKinnon, Rantanen, I thought that line and those two guys were outstanding," Bednar said. "They had the toughest matchup of the night with the [Connor] McDavid line, and they outplayed them and played real well and scored a couple real nice goals for us."
Video: EDM@COL: Rantanen buries MacKinnon's slick dish
Selected first overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, MacKinnon is the second player from that draft class to reach 200 points. Calgary's Sean Monahan reached the milestone first, but MacKinnon accomplished the feat in 11 fewer games.
MacKinnon has 74 goals and 126 assists in 291 contests, while Monahan (currently with 104 goals and 105 assists in 310 outings) reached 200 in career game No. 302.
Rantanen's said passing is key for his line, which also includes Sven Andrighetto.
"We try to move the puck a lot, try to keep moving our feet and trying to find open spots," Rantanen said. "Sven is giving good chances there too. He's a good player and finding the open ice, so we have to keep going like that."
Video: EDM@COL: Rantanen buries a slapper for second goal
For Rantanen, Thursday marked his second multi-goal game and fifth multi-point outing of the season. The last time he had scored multiple times in a 60-minute frame was his three-tally performance on Feb. 7 versus Montreal.
"He's been impressive," Bednar said. "Some nights he doesn't always get on the board, but especially lately, he's played four or five games where he's been the best of the best games he's played all year."
Every game day, the coaching staff has the tough decision on which players won't be in that night's lineup. With only 20 skaters on the 23-man roster able to suit up, it often leads to some hard choices for the bench boss to make.
Maybe it's a wakeup call, but the players that head coach Jared Bednar has scratched recently have rewarded the Avalanche head coach in their return to the lineup.
On Thursday against the Oilers, it was Joe Colborne's turn. Colborne had two assists versus Edmonton after being out of the lineup for the previous four outings.
The other Avs that have come back with a vengeance after being scratched have been John Mitchell and Mikhail Grigorenko. Mitchell had his first multi-point game of the season with a goal and an assist on Tuesday versus St. Louis after being scratched the previous contest, and Grigorenko tallied twice on Sunday at Chicago after sitting the previous day in Detroit.