CHICAGO--At the top level of the sport, being close doesn't win games. It also doesn't win championships.
The Colorado Avalanche knows that, and while the team had plenty of chances and shots versus the Chicago Blackhawks, the final score is what really matters.
Thursday's end result at United Center was 4-0 in favor of Chicago, but the outcome isn't indicative of how the game actually went for Colorado.
Overall, the Avs played fairly well. They outshot, out-attempted and out-chanced the Blackhawks, but they couldn't find the back of the net. That wasn't the case on the other side, as some of the Hawks' heavy hitters--Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa (twice) and Artemi Panarin--all netted goals.
"Their top players capitalized on a couple of our mistakes. Other than that, we dictated the majority of the game, but there's really no moral victories," said defenseman Erik Johnson. "They capitalized on all their opportunities and played better than us. They deserved to win. They're a great team for a reason, and their best players made us pay."
Other than a brief lull late in the first period and early in the second, the Avs controlled possession of the game. They outshot the Blackhawks each period, finishing with a 38-21 advantage overall and a 55-43 edge in shot attempts.
"Start to finish, good effort. Again, there's a handful of mistakes that cost us," said head coach Jared Bednar. "We're not going to be celebrating losses, that's for sure, but at the end of the day, if we continue to play like that and clean up a couple mistakes, find a way to bury a chance or two, that's what we have to do."
Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference
The mistakes Bednar is talking about came from the Avalanche pressing in its offensive end and giving up the puck in the neutral zone that resulted in odd-man rushes the other way.
Doing that against a high-quality opponent that has won three Stanley Cups in the past six years will mostly likely come back to bite in the end, and it did.
"We made some mistakes, they capitalized on their chances. That's a high-skill team," Bednar said. "I thought we carried the bulk of the play tonight, but when we made a mistake or they created a chance with their skill, they scored on it. And we didn't. We had plenty of scoring chances, but we didn't score on them."
The Avs failed to open the game's scoring for the seventh time this season, but the effort at the start of Thursday's contest wasn't a concern. They were outshooting the Blackhawks 11-3 before Toews banged in a rebound with 5:35 left in the first period to break the 0-0 tie.
"We were ready to play. Our first 10 minutes were outstanding, but you got to have something to show for it," Johnson said. "You can take positives out of every game if you want to, but you got to come with results and that starts with our top guys and trickles all the way down."
Video: Erik Johnson talks about the loss
Colorado has only scored three times in its last three games and is averaging 2.2 goals after nine contests. Those aren't the numbers expected from an Avs squad that has shown in the past that it can produce.
Forward Matt Duchene said if the team keeps doing what they've been doing, buzzing around the net and getting looks, eventually the puck will go in.
"That's hockey, it's fits and starts of slumps and hot streaks," Duchene said. "We got a lot of guys that are playing really good hockey that are just snake bit right now, and hopefully they break out of it soon. I know they will. We're doing a lot of good things. It's just sticking with it."
When things aren't working, often times the immediate reaction is to change it, blow it up, try something new to create a different result. Sometimes doing that works, but other times it's better to just stay the course.
The latter is the way Duchene wants to approach the club's current situation.
"I think the key is with anything you just got to try and stay focused, stay even-keeled, act like you have been scoring," he said. "I think that will come. I think we got some guys that are great players that are capable of putting pucks in the net, and the chances are there. Eventually it's going to break for them."
TYUTIN BACK IN THE LINEUP
Defenseman Fedor Tyutin returned to the Colorado lineup after missing two weeks and four games with a groin injury. He last played on Oct. 20 at Tampa Bay.
"My body feels fresh," Tyutin said prior to the contest. "You try to heal it up, make sure you don't make it worse. As long as you're ready to go, you're going."
The Izhevsk, Russia, native came into the evening with two assists in four games, just one point off his season total from a year ago with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tyutin was paired on the backend with Tyson Barrie and finished with four shots, two hits and a minus-1 rating in 17:57 of ice time.