Playing with a lead is something a team can never get comfortable with, and the Colorado Avalanche learned that lesson the hard way on Saturday night. After holding a 2-1 lead through two periods of play, the Avs allowed two goals in the final 20 minutes and lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets.
“I think we played pretty well in the first two periods,” goaltender Semyon Varlamov said of the one-goal loss. “We came out in the third period and had momentum and a chance to score, but we just didn’t in the first 10 minutes. Then they tied the game, and they scored a quick third goal. We gave the game away. We had a really good chance to win but just didn’t finish the game strong, and that was our mistake.”
Head coach Patrick Roy said it’s been a different situation every time for the Avs when they've lost a lead entering the third period.
“I thought we had the momentum toward the end of the second period, and we took three penalties in a row and for some reason that gave them momentum,” Roy said about the Winnipeg game. “I think we need to find ways to trust what we are doing and having a better understanding of what brings us success that we have early in the game, and then we have to bring it in the third period.”
Despite some struggles, the team's record shows that it has only lost six times in regulation and only twice in overtime when leading after two periods—a win percentage of .742 through 70 games. Colorado has won 23 times when holding onto the lead through 40 minutes.
Roy is making sure his club is focused on playing a simple game when ahead entering the final frame. It’s a way that he suggests can prevent a third-period loss for the Avs.
“When they score, they tie the game, [we have] a bit of harder time to regroup and stay focused,” he said. “We feel we have to push the pace, and sometimes that’s the worse thing to do instead of just play the simple game as it is. I guess it’s part of the process of learning how to win, and that’s something that we’re learning the hard way.”
Colorado plays its second contest of a four-game road swing on Wednesday and looks to reclaim the Western Conference's second wild-card spot from the Minnesota Wild. The Wild plays again tomorrow night at Ottawa.
“This road trip is very important for us,” Varlamov said of the Avalanche’s upcoming Western Canada trip. “We know we have only 12 games left, and we know the situation in our standings. We need to win our games, and we will make the playoffs. We don’t need to wait for Minnesota to lose or somebody else, it’s up to us.”
Roy skated the players hard during Monday’s practice, ensuring they were ready and prepared for the road ahead.
“You always want to make some adjustments. You always want to make sure that you refocus after every game – win or lose,” Roy said about the team’s upcoming matchups. “I’m not saying they are a Game 7, but at the same time they are all key games. Right now, [Minnesota is] in the driver’s seat, but we all know we have a game to play against them. Until then, we just have to find ways to win those hockey games.”
Every contest from here on out is important, but Roy said that they must be taken one at a time.
“Looking at our start of the season, no one thought we’d be in that position,” he said, referring to the current playoff race. “To be in the position we are today, we need to take advantage of it. The players should be excited and extremely motivated by it.”