The Colorado Avalanche has been playing exceptional hockey of late.
The club entered Tuesday night’s match against the top-seeded Nashville Predators having scored 19 goals in the past five games, firing with a 30 percent success rate on the power play and helping itself to a 4-1-0 record in that span.
With hopes and expectations high, it’s safe to say the 5-2 loss in Music City didn’t quite go the way Colorado had hoped.
Now 4-2-0 in its last six matches, the Avalanche—looking for a strong push to claim a wild card spot for the playoffs—knew that a win wouldn’t come easy. No game in the NHL ever is. Teams are going to win some and lose some until the final buzzer, whenever that may be.
“We know that we’re not going to run the table until the end of the year. We’re going to lose some games,” veteran forward Alex Tanguay said at the beginning of February. “We just have to prepare ourselves the best we can and make sure we’re ready and that we bring our best effort.”
There’s a reason why the Predators are the top team in the Western Conference, and that was on display throughout Tuesday night. Few clubs playing in Tennessee have seen the right side of a final score, as Nashville has lost just three times this season in regulation at home.
“You have to give them credit, this is a good team. Well balanced, they have the best home record for a reason,” said head coach Patrick Roy, talking about what the Predators did right in their win. “They were quick on the puck. They put a lot of pressure on our ‘D.’ Their ‘D’ were supporting the rush. They had great shots on net.
“They certainly deserve credit for their performance. They were the best team on the ice tonight. They played up to what they are; they’re the best team in the NHL right now, and that’s what they did.”
The Avs got on the board first when Nathan MacKinnon scored 3:57 into the opening period, his shot careening off a defender’s skate and into the net behind netminder Pekka Rinne. The tally, MacKinnon’s 100th career point, seemed to put the Avalanche in good position.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Calle Jarnkrok took advantage of a turnover just 15 seconds later, burying his breakaway chance through Semyon Varlamov to kick off a Nashville barrage.
“We had a good break on that goal, and they got a good break on their goal and it was a 1-1 game,” said Roy. “I thought that first period was okay. I thought we didn’t have as may shots as we liked, but I thought we had a decent first period.”
The Predators went on to score the next four goals, including an empty netter while the Avs was goalie pulled for an extra power-play skater at 8:28 of the third period. Roy’s gambit, a chance to spark some offense, backfired as Eric Nystrom’s clearing attempt went the length of the ice and into the far net.
“I don’t want to give up. As a coach, you always believe in your team, and I certainly believed that we could come back in that game,” Roy said of the decision. “Unfortunately for us, they scored in that empty net, but we’re always going to give [it] a shot. We’re always going to try.”
John Mitchell added Colorado’s second tally at 18:41 of the final frame, maintaining the Avalanche’s recent power-play success. The Avs are now 4-for-14 (29 percent) through the last six games.
Colorado returns to action on Thursday in a huge divisional matchup at the Dallas Stars.
It hasn’t happened often this season, but Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was relieved by Reto Berra during the third period in Nashville. The last time Berra replaced Varlamov was to start the third period on Feb. 16. The Avs had just held the Arizona Coyotes shot-less during the second period of a 5-2 victory at Pepsi Center, and Patrick Roy elected to give Varlamov the rest of the night off to rest.
This time, Varlamov would be the goalie of record in a defeat of the exact same score, stopping 20 of 24 shots before leaving the game Tuesday in Tennessee.
“We made a few mistakes in front of him, a couple giveaways,” Roy said of his No. 1 goaltender’s night. “He made some good saves, yes.”
Berra was perfect in his role, turning aside all 11 shots faced during his 16:59 of play. Nashville’s fifth tally came while Berra was on the bench for an extra attacker during a power play.
CAPTAIN VERSUS CAPTAIN
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog found himself on the other end of some fists on Tuesday night, defending himself after delivering a booming hit that leveled Nashville rear guard Roman Josi. Landeskog’s dancing partner was none other than Shea Weber, captain of the Predators.
The bout was Landeskog’s third of the season and second against an opposing squad’s captain. The 22-year-old Swede’s first captain-fight came against Andrew Ladd of the Winnipeg Jets on on Dec. 11, 2014. Landeskog’s other tilt was with Dougie Hamilton of the Boston Bruins on Jan. 21, 2015.
Landeskog has fought two other times in his career, against Jack Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) on March 1, 2012 and Alex Chiasson (with the Dallas Stars) on Nov. 1, 2013.