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Third-Period Comeback Falls Short

The Avs fought back to force OT on Sunday

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding / ColoradoAvalanche.com

When Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov beat Colorado Avalanche goaltender Calvin Pickard with a weak shot to deliver a 2-0 lead roughly halfway through Sunday's game at Pepsi Center, the Avs certainly could have fallen apart.

Having gone 1-4 on the recent season-long, five-game game road trip along the East Coast, the only thing the Avalanche had going for it was a big 2-1 victory in overtime at the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

Perhaps that confidence was enough for Colorado, which refused to lie down and let a hungry Lightning squad skate away with an easy triumph. The home team went into the dressing room at the second intermission and vowed to do better than it had in the first two frames.

"We hadn't played our best through 40 minutes. We had little glimpses here and there but not our best," center Matt Duchene said. "We were talking about it in the room, just that we haven't come back on a team all year and that tonight was the night, hopefully, and we were able to do it."

Video: Matt Duchene on the Avs' loss to Lightning

The Avs were re-energized after an intermission discussion amongst themselves and it showed. They doubled their 14 shots through the first two frames and scored two goals to tie the contest.

Mikko Rantanen was the first to find twine, roofing a rebound up over the shoulder of Ben Bishop, Tampa's 6-foot-7 monstrosity of a goalie, just 2:46 into the stanza to halve the score.

"Duchene gave it to me, I gave it to [Blake] Comeau. He had good wheels there," Rantanen said of the play. "He took the 'D' wide and put the puck to the net. It was bouncing in front of the net and just came to me. I tried to put it over the shoulder and this time it went in. So it was good. 

"We talked about how we needed more shots. We had 14 after two periods, and then we had 14 in the third. So that's what we were talking about, put the pucks to the net and go to the net more. That's how you score goals."

 Rantanen's second marker in as many matches fueled the line, Duchene in particular. It would be none other than No. 9 who scored the equalizer as the final minute ticked off the game clock.

Video: Postgame interview with Mikko Rantanen 

After superb play from Pickard to keep the game close for the remainder of the period, the netminder was sent to the bench for the extra skater. With a mere 42 seconds left in the contest, Duchene let rip a one-timer that pinballed its way into the cage to even the score. 

The tally not only forced overtime and gave the Avalanche something to build upon moving forward, but it also decimated a 13-game goalless streak for the 26-year-old forward.

"I've been snakebitten for probably [13] games now, hitting goalposts, things like that," he said. "You know what, I just tried to hit it as hard as I could and their guy blocked it into their other guy and it went into the net. Lucky goal, but it was nice to get one with the goalie pulled. I don't think we've done it all year." 

Despite carrying the game into overtime and creating some quality scoring situations, Colorado ultimately fell 3-2 when Jonathan Drouin used some silky moves to bury the game-winner.

Although the loss weighed heavy on the dressing room after the match, the comeback effort--born from sheer will and determination to work at playing the right way--was a positive takeaway for struggling squad.

"It's something we haven't done all year. So it's a good step in the right direction there, but it still hurts to lose that one," Duchene said. "I think when you come back, it almost stings even more than if you lose it in regulation. We did a lot of good things, like we had some great chances in OT and just couldn't put it away."

"I think we're happy how we played in the third, not really in the second and first was OK," Rantanen said. "The overtime, I liked it… but it didn't go our way. So that's it."

Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar's postgame thoughts

Head coach Jared Bednar agreed that the finish was much better than the start.

"We didn't quit and we kept fighting in the third period. There were some bigger portions of the game that I wasn't thrilled with. Obviously, 14 shots through two periods isn't enough," Bednar said. "When we went in the second intermission, we told them we got to get way more bodies and traffic and pucks to the net, and then we did that. We doubled up our shot total alone in the third period. We had 14 shots in the third, so to fight back like that and find a way to finally get one with the 6-on-5 is good.

"Guys were shooting the puck, not early in it but after. We pounded a couple pucks to the net and were able to get one there. It's a good point. It's a character point. Just weren't able to get it done in overtime."

While Pickard took the loss particularly hard, his bench manager was encouraged by the bounce-back effort the young keeper put forth for the second half of the night and into the bonus frame.

"His best saves came when we were trailing 2-1 in the third, for me, and that's what I'll express to him," Bednar said. "Yeah, he let in the one that I'm sure he wants back, but we had some turnovers tonight and we gave up some chances in the slot. On those chances from the slot, he looked square and looked sharp and was smothering pucks and kept them out of our net.

"There were two or three chances late in the third period, the last 10 minutes in the third, [where] we got sloppy with the puck, and he was good. So he gave us a chance to win the game. He gave us a chance to comeback and get the point. So overall, I didn't mind his game besides the one shot."

Video: COL Recap: Costly turnover in OT leads to 3-2 loss

Another bright spot for the coach was the line of Comeau, Duchene and Rantanen.

"I actually liked [that] line again tonight. I thought they were good. They were good in Carolina, too. They had some chances," Bednar said, highlighting Matt Duchene specifically. "He set up Mikko. I think he had another helper tonight. So he's had some good looks at the net. He's made some nice plays in the past, and I think he's making some good decisions on when to pass and when to shoot. Goalies have had his number a little bit here, but he's got to continue to shot the puck and keep following it to the net, a lot like Mikko."

For Bednar, Rantanen's recent play has been indicative of the type of player the coaching staff has expected to see blossom during his first full NHL campaign. The 20-year-old forward from Nousiainen, Finland, has 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in his last 12 games and tied a career high with five shots on net against Tampa Bay.

"I think that he's growing into a more dangerous guy, a more dangerous guy than he was at the start of the year," said Bednar. "We saw him at the start of the year and we were hoping that this was where he could get to. You can see now, he's shooting the puck with a little more confidence. He's following pucks to the net a little bit more. He's been around the net more and he's a little bit more of a shot mentality, so he's getting rewarded for it. He has the skill to be able to get himself into scoring areas, and he's doing that lately."
 

 

SODERBERG HITS A MILESTONE

He may not be flashy like Nathan MacKinnon or Matt Duchene, and he certainly doesn't have the legacy of a player like Jarome Iginla, but center Carl Soderberg is trucking right along in his NHL career.

The 31-year-old Swede skated in his 300th career contest on Sunday, which is quite the feat. Selected by the St. Louis Blues in the second round (49th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Soderberg didn't make his NHL debut until April 20, 2013, when his Boston Bruins took on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He closed out that season with the Bruins, playing in the club's final six contests and two more in the playoffs, and never looked back.

Acquired by the Avalanche via trade on June 25, 2015, Soderberg has skated in 139 contests since then, including all 82 last season. He has 62 points (17 goals, 45 assists) during that span and also owns the club's longest active ironman streak as he's now competed in 226 consecutive hockey matches without an absence.

 

COACH'S CHALLENGE

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar's improved his coach's challenge record to 4-1 on Sunday when he asked to have a Tyler Johnson tally reviewed by the officiating staff. Upon further examination, goaltender interference was determined and the original call of a good goal on the ice was overturned.

Bednar is also now 1-for-1 on challenges at Pepsi Center.

Bednar's first challenge came on Oct. 17 in Pittsburgh in the Avalanche's second game and first on the road. Goaltender Calvin Pickard claimed he was interfered with by Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin and video review confirmed as much. The goal was overturned. 

The second came on Oct. 22 at the Florida Panthers. Bednar told the officiating staff that he wanted a second look before the crowd was halfway through cheering, and the play was rescinded due to an errant player who was offside.

The third victory in the challenge department came in the second period of Colorado's game at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 21. Boone Jenner looked to get the 2-2 equalizer on a shot from the faceoff circle, but replay revealed that Scott Hartnell had made contact with Seymon Varlamov prior to the arrival of the puck. The marker was called back.

Bednar's lone loss came on Feb. 1 as the Avs faced the Los Angeles Kings in California. Officials had declared that forward Blake Comeau had initiated enough contacted with goalie Peter Budaj to prevent the Kings keeper from making a play on Jarome Iginla's second-period marker. Although Bednar thought otherwise, further review upheld the original call of no goal.

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