Colorado's comeback fell short despite getting within one with more than five minutes remaining as Washington added an empty-netter to take a 4-2 victory at Pepsi Center.
The Capitals had double-digit shots in each period, but it appeared as if Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov might steal the game for the home team. Varlamov made 43 saves, but turnovers seemed to cost the Avalanche the contest.
"One word that is going to come up a lot is turnovers," said head coach Patrick Roy. "It caused the first goal. It caused the third goal. It actually caused the penalty we took (resulting in the second goal). In order for us to be a team that battles with the best, that part of the game is going to have to be a lot better. I guess it starts with me. I have to find a way to make our guys accountable. That cannot continue like this, there is no doubt about it."
After the game, the Avs players took responsibility for mismanaging the puck.
"I [didn’t] like the start of the first period. We had a 10-minute span in the second where we were doing the same thing as the start of the first," said captain Gabriel Landeskog. "We were just throwing pucks away, not supporting each other, and ultimately they just fed off that momentum-wise and scored three big goals off of it."
"Our D-core wasn't good enough, myself included," said defenseman Tyson Barrie. "We weren't able to get the puck into our forwards' hands, and we were turning pucks over."
This isn't anything new for the club, as it seems like turnovers have been the culprit for a large amount of the Avs' goals against this season.
"It's been like this all year," Roy said. "Is it from the breakout under pressure? Is it on the entry? Is it neutral zone? We all have to be better at that, myself as well. I have to make sure our guys are accountable. We do so many good things out there, and we just destroy them by turning the puck over. This is something that needs to change. It needs to change."
Washington came out strong from the opening faceoff and didn't let up. It had 47 total shots on net while holding Colorado to single digits in the category in each period.
The shot differential didn't sit well with Barrie.
"It was awful, and a lot of it was the backend," Barrie said. "We weren't getting the forwards pucks. We were a bit sloppy."
The Avs did push back as Jarome Iginla tallied on the power play late in the second period and Landeskog cleaned up a rebound with less than six minutes to play, but they couldn't find the equalizer to at least get a point out of the evening.
"We had a good chance tonight to climb and a big chance for a big comeback and a big two points to climb in the standings," Landeskog said. "We shot ourselves in the foot in this one."
With home-ice advantage throughout the postseason already locked up, the only things Washington has to play for in its final contests are franchise/NHL regular-season records and preparation for the playoffs.
The Capitals played like a team on a mission to raise the Stanley Cup in June, and Roy was quick to credit them after the game.
"It's pretty impressive the way they have been playing," Roy said. "They had a hard-fought game against Philly. They clinched the Presidents' Trophy, they did everything they had to, and they're still playing a high-tempo game, very intense, their forecheck. This is a team that is certainly one of the favorites (in the playoffs)."
With four games left in the season, the only thing the Avalanche can do is keep moving forward. Colorado hosts the St. Louis Blues on Sunday and is still in postseason contention after the Minnesota Wild lost back-to-back games.
"We have great guys in here, a lot of character," Barrie said. "We want to win every night. We want to be in the playoffs. This was disappointing tonight, but we're not going to hang our heads. We're going to turnaround and get St. Louis at home on Sunday."
TWO 20-GOAL SCORERS
Jarome Iginla and Gabriel Landeskog's tallies on Friday each marked their 20th goals of the season.
Iginla scored 20 for the 17th time in his career, which is the second most among active players behind only Jaromir Jagr (19 seasons). It was also his 609th career marker, passing Dino Ciccarelli (608) for sole possession of 17th place on the all-time list and moving him within one of Bobby Hull (610) for 16th.
With the tally coming during a man advantage, Iginla also tied Pierre Turgeon for 21st place on the NHL's all-time power-play goals list (190).
Landeskog has now scored at least 20 goals in four of his first five NHL seasons, and the only time he didn't reach the mark came during the lockout-shortened year of 2012-13.
It was also Landeskog's 100th career goal.
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov was unable to finish Friday's game after suffering a head injury in the second period.
Carrying the puck around the Colorado net, Zadorov took what appeared to be an elbow to the face from Capitals forward Tom Wilson 4:10 into the middle stanza. The young blueliner was flattened on the ice and needed help from the training staff to return to the team's bench and eventually the locker room.
Wilson was not assessed a penalty on the play.
Zadorov was playing in his 19th game of the season and his third in a row since being recalled from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League on Sunday.
MACKINNON INJURY UPDATE
Injured Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon has yet to start skating and his outlook for returning in one of the club's final four games of the regular season doesn't look good.
"I haven't asked [the training staff] this morning if the plan is for him to skate soon, but the last I heard, the answer is no," said head coach Patrick Roy after the team's pregame skate on Friday morning.
MacKinnon has missed the last six games after hurting his knee during the third period of Colorado's 4-3 shootout victory at the Calgary Flames on March 18.
The third-year pro ranks second on the team with 21 goals and 52 points this season.
DUCHENE RETURNS TO THE LINEUP
Matt Duchene was back in the Avalanche lineup after missing the past six contests with a knee injury.
"It was really hard to watch and not be out there helping the guys," Duchene said on Friday morning. "You feel helpless. You feel useless as an athlete. I think it's great to be back and can't wait to help the team."
Duchene got hurt in the third period of the team's win at the Vancouver Canucks on March 16. He had recorded three goals and five assists in his last seven outings prior to Friday and was on a four-game point streak (two goals and four assists).
Colorado's leader in goals (29) and points (56), Duchene centered the top forward line with wings Mikhail Grigorenko and Mikkel Boedker.