OTTAWA, Ontario--There wasn't much that Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar liked from his squad in its 2-1 loss at the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.
"I don't think it was a 2-1 game, to be honest with you," Bednar said. "I think that they were significantly better tonight, but we had some flashes. Just some gaps in the game, and the penalties hurt us."
Colorado took four infractions in the contest, with three of them coming in the first period to halt any momentum the team might have generated in the opening minutes.
"A couple slashing, tripping penalties in the neutral zone where we're kind of swinging our stick from a high position," Bednar said. "We get called for both of them, so that kind of puts us on our heels a little bit after a decent start to the game."
The good news is that Ottawa couldn't capitalize on any of the man advantage opportunities, but the Avalanche didn't generate much momentum from a perfect penalty-kill night.
Rene Bourque scored to get Colorado within one goal at 5:25 of the third period, but the team couldn't record the equalizer.
"I think we had great chances throughout the game. We just couldn't put the puck to the net," Mikko Rantanen said. "I think we should shoot more. We had a lot of O-zone time, but we were not shooting the puck. You can't score if you don't shoot."
Video: Coach Bednar's postgame media scrum in Ottawa
The Senators held a 42-23 shots on goal advantage but only a 66-65 edge in total shot attempts.
The difference for the Avs were the 25 pucks that the Sens blocked and the other 17 that missed the net.
"Ottawa defended real well. They were solid defensively," Rantanen said. "They were blocking shots. It's tough to score against a team like that. They have a good goalie, too. So, it's tough."
While goaltender Calvin Pickard faced a lot of rubber, he wasn't necessarily tested with quality shots.
"Ottawa threw a lot of pucks at the net. They weren't very selective," said Pickard, whose 40 saves were his second most of the season. "They were just throwing a lot at the net."
The Senators were one of two teams the Avalanche had yet to face this season prior to Thursday, and the clubs will meet again in Denver on March 11.
Detroit is now the only squad Colorado has yet to play, but they'll quickly complete their two-game series with a home-and-home set March 15-18.
It was a long day for forward J.T. Compher, but well worth the travel as the Colorado forward made his NHL debut.
Compher, who arrived in Ottawa on Thursday morning after being recalled from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League the previous day, played 11:13 and finished with three hits while winning four of his seven faceoffs. He also witnessed the Canadian Tire Centre's penalty box first hand after taking a slashing penalty late in the first period.
"I felt pretty good today. I think I got more comfortable as the game went on," Compher said of his first NHL contest. "I was able to make a few more plays with the puck. There's a few things I would like to clean up, like eliminating a couple turnovers and stuff like that, but overall it was a great experience, a lot of fun. Wish we would have come out with the win, though."
The Northbrook, Illinois, native centered the Avs' third line with Matt Nieto and Blake Comeau.
"I enjoyed the opportunity and tried to take advantage of it," Compher said of playing a pivot role with two NHL vets. "I thought for parts of the night, we played really well and got some good scoring chances. So, if I get a chance to do it again, I'll keep building on that."
Bednar said he liked the work ethic that he saw from Compher.
"I thought he was skating. He was competing hard on the puck, and that's something we need," Bednar said. "He's getting physical for his size, and he's working on the puck. It's not just one-and-done effort; he's working and he's staying on it and competing for loose pucks and tracking the puck hard."
Compher is in his first professional season with the Avalanche organization and had recorded 30 points (13 goals and 17 assists) in 41 games with the San Antonio Rampage.
Drafted 35th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2013, Compher was acquired by Colorado in a draft day trade on June 26, 2015. He signed with the Avs this past summer after concluding his junior season at the University of Michigan.
Video: JT Compher on his first NHL game
Patrick Wiercioch spent his first four-plus season in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators, and Thursday night marked the first time he played his former club.
"It is different. Even when we landed in Ottawa, it's different hopping on a bus and not jumping in your car and driving home," Wiercioch said prior to the game. "A lot of good memories. A lot of good people in this organization here. A lot of great fans. It is definitely a place that every time I come back to it will hold a special place."
Wiercioch was drafted 42nd overall by Ottawa in 2008 and signed with the club following his second season at the University of Denver in 2010. He went on to record 12 goals and 50 assists in 211 games with the Senators.
The defenseman is in his first season with the Avalanche after signing as a free agent in the summer.
Wiercioch started the game for the Avs and was paired on the blue line with Francois Beauchemin for most of the contest.
Forward Carl Soderberg was back in the Avalanche lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past two games, while goaltender Calvin Pickard returned to the crease for the first time in more than a week.
Pickard's last start came Feb. 21 versus the Los Angeles Kings. He made 40 saves in the 2-1 loss against Ottawa and would have probably liked to have the first puck that got past him back, as Alexandre Burrows' shot from the left circle fooled him at 8:39 of the opening period.
"He let in a soft one early, and then was great the rest of the way," head coach Jared Bednar said of his netminder.
Soderberg began the game on a line with Matt Duchene and Mikko Rantanen and had two shots on goal in 14:36 of ice time.
Defenseman Cody Goloubef and newly-acquired forward Sven Andrighetto were the healthy scratches. The Swiss-born Andrighetto, who Colorado got in a trade with Montreal on Wednesday, has yet to join the Avs as he waits to get his U.S. visa. Bednar said the right wing will probably meet the team when it returns to Denver following Saturday's game in Winnipeg.