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Missed Opportunities Costly For Avs

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

In the midst of a hunt for a playoff spot, Thursday night was bittersweet for the Colorado Avalanche.

The home team at Pepsi Center picked up a point in the standings, but it left another on the table in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars.

Colorado held a 2-1 lead after the first period and a 3-2 advantage after the second, but missed opportunities hurt the Avs in the third.

"We had a penalty shot; we missed it. We had a power play; we took a penalty, and they scored on their power play," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said. "They made a great play with a broken stick, and we lost our position because of it. They went backdoor and scored that (tying) goal."

Nathan MacKinnon had the chance to give the Avs a two-goal cushion and possibly put the dagger in the Stars early in the third period after being hooked on a breakaway and awarded Colorado's first penalty shot since Jan. 18, 2011 (Kevin Porter versus Vancouver). However, MacKinnon's ensuing wrist shot was deflected wide by the blocker of Antti Niemi, and the Stars went back on the offensive.

Colorado had another chance with Dallas' Tyler Seguin off for hooking with 10:51 left in the final stanza, but its power play was short-lived as Blake Comeau was called for cross checking 48 seconds into the man advantage. Jason Demers scored the tying goal on the Stars power play soon after Seguin was released from the penalty box.

Dallas finished it on John Klingberg's 3-on-1 goal early in overtime.

"It seemed like we had the lead all night until the last half of the third period," said Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard. "They get that one. They were pretty relentless in that third period and anything can happen in overtime."

The Avs thought they had scored late in the second period when Zach Redmond's point shot found its way through traffic to give them a 4-2 lead, but the Stars challenged the play and the tally was soon disallowed after the officials ruled goalie interference.

Other than the play of Pickard and the Carl Soderberg-centered line with Blake Comeau and Gabriel Landeskog, Roy wasn't much pleased with how his team (both forwards and defensemen) played overall, especially defensively.

Dallas outshot Colorado 44-24.

"It's a playoff game right now. We're battling for a playoff spot," Roy said. "We need to play better defensively. We seemed slow tonight, putting pressure on them. They had all the time in the world to make their plays. It was not a good game for us, but at the same time it was a big point."

On the other end of the ice, the Avalanche needs to generate more chances for itself.

"We have to possess the puck more, throw more pucks to the net," Pickard said. "Tonight, we had a lot of close calls by just throwing innocent pucks to the net. We just need to simplify our game, and we'll break through."

The Avs did have good responses earlier in the contest. Colorado got down 1-0 just 91 seconds into the outing but scored twice in 3:09 to retake the lead. The Stars then tied the game with 4:25 left in the second, but Carl Soderberg tallied 1:25 later to put the Avalanche back in front.

"I thought our response was good in the first when they scored that early goal, we scored two good ones," veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "They tied it up and we scored right back. We just got to finish that game when were up 2-1, 3-2. Those are the kind of games that you will have to be able to close out."

If there was another positive to the night for the Avs, it was that they stayed in the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with Minnesota, Nashville, Arizona and Vancouver also losing. Colorado holds a two-point lead over the Predators and is three up on the Wild for the position.

MILESTONE NIGHT FOR MACKINNON

Nathan MacKinnon appeared in his 200th NHL contest on Thursday night, and like he did in his first game on Oct. 2, 2013, the Avalanche forward recorded a point.

"It's gone by quick, 200 games already," MacKinnon said after morning skate. "It seems weird. I'm only in my third season. Obviously, Game 1 was exciting, and it is still exciting, but it's different."

MacKinnon assisted on Nick Holden's tally at 4:54 of the first period against the Stars, improving his yearly total to 24 assists and 42 points, which is tied for the team lead with Matt Duchene.

The No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 NHL Draft, the 20-year-old has registered 56 goals and 87 assists in the 200 contests. His 143 points are the most from his draft class, and only Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames has more goals (68).

"It's hard to believe that he's only that age," said Avs alternate captain McLeod. "To play the way that he plays. He's playing like he's been in the league five, six years now. It's good, and he's only going to get better as the years go on."

PEE-WEE TEAM HONORED

Prior to the game, the Avs honored the pee-wee hockey team that will represent the organization at the 2016 Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament.

The Arapahoe Warriors earned the right to be called the Jr. Avalanche after winning the Avs' Quebec Qualifier Tournament at Pepsi Center in November, getting an all-expenses paid trip to Quebec. The Arapahoe players and coaches received personalized Avalanche equipment for the tournament on Monday before having a special practice with Francois Beauchemin and Calvin Pickard at the team's practice facility in Centennial.

The 57th annual tournament will be held Feb. 10-21 in Quebec City. The Avalanche Pee-Wee Team has won its division two of the last three years.

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