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Game Management the Difference in Loss to Jackets

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche appears to be close to breaking out.

It just didn't happen on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets as the Avs suffered their third straight and fourth one-goal defeat of the season in a 4-3 loss at Pepsi Center.

A play here or there and the club could have changed the end result. That thought gives Colorado head coach Patrick Roy optimism heading into a three-game road trip next week.

"We're doing a lot of video. We're working hard. For me, it's positive," Roy said. "The results are not positive, but I feel we're going somewhere. It's not like we're coming here and it's a 6-1 game. I see a little better decision here or there, it could make a huge difference in the outcome of the game."

As expected, the Avalanche players are tired of the same result: a chance to win in the third but unable able to pull out the victory in the end. Close, but no cigar.

"What we've been doing in the third period has been embarrassing," said Nathan MacKinnon, who put the blame on himself after the contest. "On the winning goal, I've got to know it's a 4-on-3. Just our defensive awareness, closing out game. Minny, our game against L.A., I mean Carolina; we have to be better in our thirds."

Roy only had good things to say about MacKinnon after the contest. The forward scored his third goal of the season in the second period, which at the time gave the Avs the lead.

"He's working well. He's our best forward so far," Roy said. "I like his intensity. He's skating well. He's learning. He's 20 years old. He's too tough on himself. I'm very happy with him."

On Saturday, odd-man rushes for the Blue Jackets ended up being difference. The Avs held a 3-2 advantage heading into the third period before goals by Ryan Murray and Brandon Dubinsky in a 2:47 span flipped the score.

"We keep finding ways to lose," said forward Alex Tanguay. "We're up one goal heading into the third, all we have to do is play hard, play smart, not give them an odd-man rush. We gave them two odd-man rushes, and they took advantage of it."

Roy said better game management could help the team start picking up wins in these close contests.

"I just feel our guys, if we can just manage our games just a little bit better, we could cut one or two goals just tonight," Roy said. "Positioning of our F3 in the O-zone. There are situations like this that could not have given an odd-man rush at key moments of the game, and that's what we did and we paid for it."

The Avalanche fell way behind in the standings early last season and was never able to fully recover in the second half of the year. With a 2-4-1 record to begin this year, the Avs still have time to right the ship but face a difficult road ahead.

After playing five of its first seven games at home, Colorado now heads into a stretch with 11 of its next 14 games on the road.

"We have to find ways to start winning games and put this team in a good position," Tanguay said. "This team is much better than what we have shown. We know that, and you've got to go out to Florida, Tampa, and Carolina and win. We'll try and do that."

IGGY KEEPS CLIMBING

Jarome Iginla had a goal and an assist and now holds sole possession of 39th place on the NHL's all-time point list with 1,231. He moved past Norm Ullman on Saturday night and is just one point shy of tying Phil Housley for 38th.

Iginla scored his third goal of the season at 1:43 of the second period and then assisted on Nathan MacKinnon's go-ahead tally later in the stanza.

Saturday's contest also marked Iginla's 1,399th career NHL game. He is expected to play in game No. 1,400 on Tuesday at the Florida Panthers.

SKILLE TALLIES AGAINST FORMER TEAM

It didn't take long for Jack Skille to get reacquainted with his former club.

The forward scored on the Avalanche's first shot of the game 2:21 into the first period to give the club an early one-goal advantage. Skille's second tally of the year came on a beautiful shot in which he made a move at the blue line to get around a Columbus player before firing a wrister from the left circle that got past Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's glove and into the top corner of the net.

It was the first time Skille had played against Columbus after appearing in 61 games for the team the last two seasons. He had six goals and two assists in 45 contests last year.

Skille joined the Avs on a professional tryout for training camp before signing a one-year deal after the preseason concluded.

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