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Poor Execution Hurts Avalanche

Rene Bourque and Nathan MacKinnon had two-point games in loss to Oilers

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The Colorado Avalanche's top line was rolling Wednesday night. The team's execution was not.

Nathan MacKinnon, Rene Bourque and Mikko Rantanen each recorded two points, but too many turnovers and penalties cost the Avalanche in a 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at Pepsi Center.

The Oilers scored four unanswered in the third period to quickly erase a one-goal deficit, with some of the markers being gift wrapped by the Avs. Edmonton tied the game 3-3 just 32 seconds into the final stanza and took the lead for good nearly six minutes later when Connor McDavid tallied on a shot from behind the goal line that caromed off Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov and in.

"First shift they put some pressure on us and our execution is poor," Avs head coach Jared Bednar said of the final period. "It's a turnover in neutral ice. When you give good players ice, like we talked about this morning, you can't. You got to be able to manage the puck against good players otherwise they're going to find a way to create opportunities, and that's what McDavid does, and it ends up in the back of your net."

The third frame was when those mistakes were the most noticeable, but the Avalanche was making the same errors in the first two frames as well. The club got lucky on some, not so much on others.

"What is disappointing for me is that we scored enough goals to win the game today, you know what I mean," Bednar said. "We just can't hand them the easy ones. We get up 1-0, hand them an easy one. Every time we got a little momentum, we take a penalty and again then we're asking our team to kill it with the skill they have on their power play."

Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference

Despite the mistakes, the Avs held a 3-2 lead with 20 minutes left to play after getting two goals from Bourque and a tally from MacKinnon. They just couldn't close out the third, missing out on an opportunity to begin a five-game homestand on the right foot and get above .500 for the first time since late October.

"I think we left two points on the table, for sure," Bourque said. "We have the lead going into the third at home, we got to learn how to close these games out. We're on our heels for a lot of the first 10 minutes and they bang in three quick ones."

Bourque's two markers give him seven on the season, which is tied for the team lead with Matt Duchene.

Both tallies were the result of him finding space in the slot. Bourque's first with 2:41 left in the first period came when he took a pass from Nathan MacKinnon and sent a one-time wrister past Oilers goalie Cam Talbot. He then got Colorado up 3-2 when he redirected Tyson Barrie's shot from the blue line into the back of the cage.

"Right spot at the right time. You get some nice plays from your teammates, getting me the puck when I'm open," Bourque said. "It's tough when you contribute like that and you don't win, you don't really get to enjoy it too much. We need more than that."

It was Bourque's second multi-goal game of the season and the 19th of his 677-game NHL career. He also netted two in a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 11.

MacKinnon continued his strong play with a goal and an assist, extending his point streak to four games.

He opened the scoring 5:50 into the first period as he received the puck on a chip off the wall by Rantanen, who finished with two assists, raced into the Edmonton zone on a 2-on-1 and sniped a wrist shot over the glove of Talbot.

MacKinnon now has three goals and five assists in his last four contests.

"He was good, real good early," Bednar said of MacKinnon. "It's got to be 60 minutes. It can't be 50, 40 minutes. We need our whole team to go for 60."

It seemed as if the Avalanche had to play down a man for much of the night, as the Oilers had six power-play opportunities and scored on two of them. Edmonton entered Wednesday with the ninth-best road power play in the league.

"They're a dangerous power play. You look at that top unit, they have some really good players in that unit, and they make things happen," Duchene said. "We have to be better there, but you got to give them a little bit of credit too. We got to bear down."

Despite the errors throughout, the Avs still had a chance to pick up their first three-game winning streak of the season. Instead, they'll have to work their way back from below .500 on Saturday when they host the Vancouver Canucks.

"We talked about it in the (second) intermission, it was a big (third) period for us and a good chance for us to jump a few teams in the standings and get a wild-card spot and three to ride home," Bourque said. "We laid an egg."

Video: Rene Bourque on the Avs' loss

LANDESKOG INJURY UPDATE

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog skated for the first time Wednesday morning since suffering a lower-body injury and could return to action for Saturday's contest against the Vancouver Canucks, according to head coach Jared Bednar.

"He skated this morning on his own," Bednar said prior to the Avs game against the Oilers. "He's going to skate tomorrow morning too on his own again, and then we'll see where he is at Friday--just to see how far he's progressing and if he is going to be a possible player for us on Saturday."

Landeskog missed his fourth straight contest on Wednesday night and hasn't played since a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 15. He finished that game and even scored an empty-net goal late to seal the win, but he did not travel with the club on its recent three-game road trip.

Wednesday also marked the Avalanche captain's 24th birthday. He'll have to wait until next season for a chance to play on his big day.

SUCCESSFUL FOOD DRIVE

The Colorado Avalanche's annual Do All You Can Food Drive was once again a success as the team and volunteers from the Ball Corporation collected 2,730 pounds of food and $9,275 dollars on Wednesday.

In addition, the Ball Corporation also contributed $10,000 to the cause.

Canned food and monetary donations were collected at all the entrances of Pepsi Center prior to the contest. All donations go to the Denver Rescue Mission, which provides 650,000 meals to those in need each year.

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