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Rantanen Records Another First During Rookie Season

Colorado couldn't capitalize on chances against Anaheim

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

With 36 games over the final 69 days of the season, how some of the Colorado Avalanche players respond with the playoffs out of reach might be telling for what the future holds for the club and the individuals.

Rookie forward Mikko Rantanen is one of the members of the team that continues to show growth and brilliance during this tough season.

For the first time in his young NHL career, Rantanen scored in consecutive games as he recorded his eighth of the season on Tuesday night at Honda Center. His breakaway goal cut the Avs' deficit to 2-1 at 5:13 of the second period, but that was as close as the visitors would get in their first game following the All-Star break. The Ducks pulled away with three goals in the third period, and the Avalanche lost 5-1.

"There is a reason why we're at where we're at," said Colorado alternate captain Matt Duchene. "It's not just the third periods, it's an inability to play a full 60-minute game and tonight was no different."

Rantanen's goal was a highlight of the night, and it came after a nice heads up play by the 20-year-old. He helped force a turnover at the Avalanche blue line, regained possession of the puck in the neutral zone on a pass from Mikhail Grigorenko and then placed a shot that seemed to fool Anaheim goaltender John Gibson on his glove side.

"He was probably thinking I was going low, because he left a lot of room on the high side," Rantanen said. "I just tried to shoot it there. It was a nice play by Grigo to get me the puck. It was good to get that one."

Video: COL@ANA: Rantanen lifts wrister over Gibson's glove

The tally got the Avalanche back within striking distance in what had been a tightly-contested outing to that point by both teams.

But like it has done many times this season, the puck wasn't bouncing in Colorado's favor.

Nathan MacKinnon, the team's representative at this past weekend's All-Star Game, had a great chance to tie the game early in the third period. MacKinnon's first shot was stopped by Gibson, but he got his rebound and poked the puck between the netminder's pads, only to see it slide inches wide of the far post.

Moments later, Jakob Silfverberg scored his second of the night to extend Anaheim's lead back to two.

Colorado kept pushing and got another good chance midway through the final stanza as Nikita Zadorov's outside shot got past Gibson, but again the puck trickled wide and Anaheim soon went down and scored at the other end of the ice.

That's just the way things have gone for the Avs this season.

"There are some turning points in that game for me," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "They get their third one and you're trying to open it up. You're running out of time, you're down 3-1, you have to open it up and take some chances, and then they end up banging in another couple."

The Avs power play didn't do the club any favors either. Colorado went 0-for-3 with the extra man opportunity in the opening period and then received another late in the second on a fortunate goaltender interference call. The team wasn't able to capitalize on the fourth chance and finished the game with five shots on goal while on the power play.

Anaheim took advantage of its lone man advantage early in the first period as Silfverberg's perfect tip opened the game's score.

"We have to shoot more," Rantanen said of the team's struggles while a man up. "That's the mentality you have to have on the power play."

The Avs have one of the busiest schedules to close out the regular season, as they'll play nearly every other day in the final 10 weeks. Rest will come at a premium, and the team won't get much on this short two-game California trip as it now heads up the coast to take on the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.

Once again, the Colorado's attention is on turning the page and trying to focus on getting a win.

"We want to be as close to .500 as we can," Duchene said of how the Avalanche is approaching these final weeks. "Obviously, we're not off to a great start but we got tomorrow. Quick turnaround, and we'll regroup and try to get after it."


Defenseman Tyson Barrie and right wing Rene Bourque returned to the Colorado lineup after both missed time in the last week before the NHL All-Star Break due to lower-body injuries. Barrie was out for four games after getting hurt on Jan. 17 versus the Chicago Blackhawks, while Bourque was injured in the first period of the Avs' last contest versus the Ducks on Jan. 19.

Because of the break, the contest on Tuesday was Barrie's first in two weeks. It took a while for rear guard to get in a rhythm, but he ended up finding it in his 22:37 of ice time.

"With the break mixed in, it's been a lot of time off," Barrie said. "The first one is always though. I [was] feeling it out there."

Bourque played 12:45 and had a shot on goal while on a line with center Joe Colborne and left wing Blake Comeau.


While the Avs got one defenseman back in the lineup, they lost another one just before the outing.

Fedor Tyutin was a late scratch for Colorado after suffering a groin injury during warmup.

"He came up with an injury in warmup. So that was something that we didn't foresee," Bednar said. "He went out for warmup ready to play and had a [groin] injury. We'll see how he is tomorrow and if he is able to go or not (versus Los Angeles)."

Tyutin, who entered Tuesday fifth on the club in average ice time at 19:16 per game, also missed three contests in October because of a hurt groin.


With the Avalanche not holding a morning skate on Tuesday, the first look at the team's line combinations came prior to the evening's game at the Ducks.

Center John Mitchell was the only healthy scratch for Colorado, while Tyutin and Semyon Varlamov were out of the lineup because of injuries. Varlamov had season-ending surgery on Thursday to help repair his injured groin, but the Avalanche netminder is still on the team's active roster until he is placed on either the short or long-term injured-reserve list.

Below is Colorado's line combinations and defensive pairings to start the game.


Mikhail Grigorenko - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Matt Nieto

Blake Comeau - Joe Colborne - Rene Bourque

Andreas Martinsen - Carl Soderberg - Jarome Iginla


Francois Beauchemin - Tyson Barrie

Nikita Zadorov - Cody Goloubef

Patrick Wiercioch - Eric Gelinas


Calvin Pickard

Spencer Martin

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