The club has a handful of skaters playing at peak performance down the final stretch of the season, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a red-hot Los Angeles Kings squad also hunting a playoff berth, and the Avs fell 5-2.
“We wanted to win this one. It’s obviously disappointing,” said Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance. That was disappointing, I think.”
Barrie is one of those players that has really hit his stride in the second half of the season, topping 40 points for the first time in his career while also matching a career-high 64 games played. With a goal on Tuesday, Barrie now has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in his last nine games and is tied with Justin Faulk for eighth place on the NHL’s defensive scoring list with 44 points (11 goals, 33 assists).
Yet none of that matters to Barrie, or Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who has also frequented the scoreboard with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in his last 13 games. Both said they felt that they could have contributed more versus L.A.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t think tonight was a strong game from [anyone], especially not me. I’ve certainly got [to be] a lot better than that,” Landeskog said. “Tyson was playing well and scored a nice goal there, and we felt like we were going and we felt like we had some momentum there, making it a one-goal game. And then they come right back and score on us, so it certainly wasn’t good enough in the D-zone.
“If you have a mental breakdown and a defensive breakdown against a team like this, they’re going to capitalize on it. They’re going to score on it. So if you’re not focused, you’re not ready, it’s going to end up in the back of the net, and that’s what happened tonight and it’s unacceptable.”
Three goals in the first period from the defending Stanley Cup champions—with a Barrie tally in the middle—proved too much for the Avs to overcome, despite an upswing in the third period.
“Have a better start? I don’t know,” Barrie said, pondering any lessons learned from the outcome. “We felt bad we left [goaltender Calvin Pickard] hanging on those three goals. There was nothing he could do. We’ve got to be better there.”
The Kings scored twice on tip-in plays in front of the net, redirecting shots from the point, and once on a solo bid by Jeff Carter from the slot to take the unrelenting lead. The quick deficit also prompted head coach Patrick Roy to change goaltenders, relieving Pickard in favor of Reto Berra, who allowed two goals on 16 shots.
According to Roy, the change in net had less to do with Pickard’s play and more to do with the tone of the contest up to that point.
“I just wanted to change the rhythm of the game. Sometimes as a coach you have to try things. Every time Calvin [was called] up, he played really well for us,” Roy said. “Tonight was just in order to change the tempo of the game and get something going for us.”
The move came minutes after Barrie marched into the zone and scored a shot through traffic.
“My partner, [Nate] Guenin, dove in, and it was a good play, just a bit of confusion,” Barrie said of the sequence that led to his tally. “Landy made a good drop to me, and I had a lot of time to walk down. I didn’t think I could beat [Jonathan] Quick just 1-on-1, so I just tried to create a screen and get it on net, and I was fortunate [it went] in.”
The sense of a viable comeback was short-lived, however, as Brayden McNabb responded in kind 1:22 later.
Barrie’s goal, as well as McNabb’s and Marian Gaborik’s power-play marker to kick off the scoring, were the result of plays through traffic. According to Barrie, this is the way to finding the scoreboard in the modern NHL.
“They had a couple tips there. That’s what you’ve got to do when you’re playing good goalies. You’ve got to get bodies in front of them and try and sneak some pucks through,” he said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get enough past Quick tonight.”
The Avalanche will look to regroup at practice on Wednesday at Family Sports before returning to Pepsi Center to face the visiting New Jersey Devils on Thursday in the second contest of the current three-game homestand.
“We have to refocus now. We’ve got two more big games coming up here at home we’ve got to take care of,” Barrie said.
HEALTH A FACTOR
The Colorado Avalanche isn’t a club to pin a loss on an excuse. Players and coaches take blame, when deserved, for their actions, but there’s no denying that the Avalanche roster has been severely impacted by injuries.
Entering Tuesday’s contest against Los Angeles, the Avs had 366 man-games lost to injury, second-most in the league behind only the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Los Angeles Kings had just 99.
Players like Erik Johnson, Nathan MacKinnon, and Semyon Varlamov—among others—were held out of the game on Tuesday with a variety of ailments, adding to a list that has grown since the start of the season. For head coach Patrick Roy, this has made the campaign much more challenging.
“If you want to be in the playoff picture, you have to be healthy first of all, and you have to play so well night after night,” he said, pointing toward L.A. as an example. “They’re so good, there’s no reason for these guys to not be in the playoff picture right now, but it just shows how tough it is. You have to be really good night after night after night if you want to make the playoffs in this conference. Every team is competing hard.
“For me, the big surprise is how come they’re not in the playoffs today?”
Roy said he’d prefer to see a matchup between his club and the Kings when he could field a complete lineup.
“I would love to play them with a full lineup to see how we would play them,” he mused. “They’re healthier than us right now. Half of our team [was] watching the game on TV.”