Overall, and especially offensively, the Colorado Avalanche played one of its better games of the season. Colorado had 43 shots on goal—third most on the year—had a good cycle going around the Los Angeles Kings' zone and was buzzing around opposing goaltender Jonathan Quick all night.
But the Avalanche couldn't find that second goal to pull away early, and ended its four-game homestand Wednesday night with a 4-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champions.
“It’s definitely frustrating and disappointing. We know it was a big game," said captain Gabriel Landeskog, a statement that was echoed by teammate Matt Duchene and head coach Patrick Roy after the contest.
"We outshot them. We outchanced them, for sure," Duchene said. "It is disappointing really to only score one goal.
"We're buzzing. We're playing hard. We're going to win a lot of games down the stretch if we play like that."
Roy said he was pleased with how the Avs competed and that the team should hold its head high leaving Pepsi Center.
"I'm very happy with the effort," Roy said. "Very pleased with how we played offensively. Offensively, I thought our guys deserved a lot better. Their goalie played really well."
It seemed like there was no "puck luck" on the Avalanche's side as the biscuit just seemed to jump over or roll off sticks, or shots were just deflected wide, or Quick was there to make the timely save when Colorado did get a good look.
"I thought he was a difference maker in the game in a way that we just could not score that second goal," Roy said of the L.A. goalie. "We had plenty of good chances in the first. Early in the second he made a great save, and they went the other way and scored the second one and it was a 2-1 game."
Colorado had a strong first period, outshooting Los Angeles 12-7 and leading 1-0 by the time the intermission buzzer rang. The Avs came out with the same intensity in the second, but it was only the Kings that found the back of the net.
Jeff Carter scored on a deflected shot in front at 1:16, Tyler Toffoli tallied on a rush by powering the puck past Semyon Varlamov at 6:24 and Dustin Brown received a low, cross-crease pass at the back door that he threw into an open net at 15:30. Carter added his second of the night with an empty-net tally late in the third period while the Avalanche was shorthanded.
Despite each goal against in the second frame, the Avs did not get discouraged as they kept coming at Quick and the Kings defense with the same offensive drive, but just couldn't get any closer on the scoreboard.
After 40 minutes, Colorado led 30-17 in the shot department and had an advantage in nearly every other statistical category.
"We didn’t get the bounces," Landeskog said. "We felt like we played hard offensively, and we feel like we were putting traffic in front of Quick and just couldn’t get that second one.”
The Avalanche went scoreless on its three power plays, but it wasn't for the lack of scoring opportunities during them. The Avs fired seven shots on goal and had strong possession of the puck for nearly the entire two minutes during each man advantage.
"All night, the power play was phenomenal," Roy said. "Honestly, I hope guys go home tonight feeling good about how they played on the power play because I thought we did everything. We had a lot of shots, one-timers, bodies in front of the net. Unfortunately for us tonight, the puck just didn't bounce our way, but I think we can build on that."
In a season of 82 games, a loss like this earlier in the year can be a good learning experience for a club. But during the stretch run and race for the playoffs, it comes at an inopportune time.
Still, while the defeat didn't do the Avs any favors in the standings, Roy said he saw a lot of positives the team can take in its final 24 contests.
"I can't complain," Roy said. "I understand it's frustrating because that was a big game for us, and at the same I'm very happy with the effort. I'm very happy with the compete. I'm very happy with how hard we worked, how hard we backchecked. Our forecheck was there. We had a lot of shots. We had a lot of traffic in front of the net. I thought we did a lot of good things. Nothing to show for it tonight, but I think this is how we have to play."
Win or lose, an NHL team has to have a short memory, and that is what Duchene said the team would need to do as it gets ready for a quick one-game trip on Friday at the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I think we move forward with that effort," Duchene said. "There is a lot to be happy with. A lot to hold our heads high with. We're going to forget about this one, like we have been forgetting about our wins. We just have to move on and focus on Chicago now."
LANDESKOG EXTENDS GOAL STREAK
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog scored his 14th of the season at 3:09 of the first period, giving Colorado an early 1-0 lead and extending his goalscoring streak to four games.
Landeskog's tally matched Erik Johnson (Dec. 20-27) for the longest goal streak by an Avs player this season, while tying his own career-long streak as well. He previously tallied in four straight contests March 14-20, 2013.
The scoring sequence began back in Colorado's zone as Nick Holden delivered a hit on Dwight King and forced a turnover that resulted to a rush the other way.
Nathan MacKinnon brought the puck up the ice and got a shot off from the left side that Quick pushed into the corner. MacKinnon picked up the loose puck, saw Landeskog trailing behind and fed a perfect pass for a snap shot that went short side, beating Quick's blocker.
MacKinnon also extended a streak on the play as he now has four straight games with an assist/point, setting a new season long.
CAREER HIGH FOR O'REILLY
Ryan O'Reilly was dominant in the circle as he won a career-high 20 faceoffs.
He went 20-of-26 (76.9 percent) on draws and became the first Avalanche player to win 20 faceoffs in a game since Matt Duchene won 24 on March 27, 2013 at Calgary (24-of-29).
Overall, Colorado went 41-for-60 on faceoffs (68 percent).