The youth movement is in full effect for the Colorado Avalanche, which lost 5-2 at the Minnesota Wild on Sunday evening after a ferocious start from the home team.
For the second game in a row, rookies factored heavily in Colorado's offense. Mikko Rantanen potted a breakaway tally in the middle frame and J.T. Compher fed captain Gabriel Landeskog for a 2-on-1 tally in the opening stanza.
Landeskog made it a 2-1 contest when he caught Compher's through-the-defender's-legs pass and buried it into twine, but Minnesota continued it's dominating first period 2:37 later when it went up 3-1.
Rantanen looked to breathe new life into the Avs in the middle frame, making it a 5-2 game when he burned into the zone and beat netminder Devan Dubnyk, but no further offense would come from either club.
Overall, head coach Jared Bednar he said wanted to see more from everyone on the roster.
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after the loss in Minnesota
"They were OK. I thought they all did some good things," he said of the squad's greener players. "We need a little bit more from everyone obviously when you lose a game like that, especially early on. But our veteran guys kind of have to lead those guys out in the first period and make sure that we're sharp and ready to go because we know they're coming out hard. That's the way it is, a packed building, good crowd. They're trying to get on track and get ramped up for the playoffs, so we knew it was going to be a strong game from them.
"They got a two-goal lead, and then we were a little bit opportunistic. We got a scoring chance and we buried it to come back and pull within one, and it was a similarly played period to St. Louis the other night for us. If we could have come in at 2-1 with a little bit of traction from that goal, I felt like even if we played the way we did in the second and third, we would give ourselves a chance. But to fall behind two again, that was a little bit deflating. Our guys went out and pushed hard, but that was just a goal that we got to do a better job in front of our net."
Rantanen's marker was his team-leading 18th of the season, and Compher's helper was his first in the National Hockey League.
Rantanen has been on fire as of late, putting away six points (four goals, two assists) in his last eight games after ending a season-high 10-game pointless drought. Compher now has two points (one goal, one assist) in his previous two matches. He was Colorado's lone regulation goalscorer in Friday's 2-1 shootout victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Video: COL@MIN: Rantanen beats Dubnyk on breakaway in 2nd
Landeskog is now tied with Nathan MacKinnon for second place on the Avs in markers with 16, but he wasn't pleased with the early effort in the loss.
"We didn't have a very good start. We didn't really have the jump that we wanted to, but that 3-1 goal kind of deflates us a little bit," Landeskog said. "I think in the second period, we played a much better period. We played much more offensively. We were creating a whole lot more, but the one at the end of the first really deflates us.
"That can't happen. You get a big goal on the road to make it a one-goal game, you got to just play solid defensively. It has to be a priority to get out of the first period and then reload for the second."
Goaltender Calvin Pickard was relieved from his duties at the 23:31 mark of the game after surrendering four goals on 16 shots. Jeremy Smith made 11 saves in the remaining 33:35 of playing time.
Video: COL@MIN: Landeskog, Compher execute odd-man rush
"I didn't think Pick was very good tonight," Bednar said of the decision to make a change. "That one [goal], I think he reached up on it and it was sailing over the net. Then didn't give himself a good chance when they threw it in front. Obviously, the power-play goal [was] from the sharp angle.
"We weren't playing our best at the time, and I didn't think he was either. So to change it and see if we could get a little life out of it, that was the idea."
Minnesota outshot the Avalanche 15-5 in the first period, but the visiting squad countered to take the advantage in both the second (16-11) and third (11-2). The Avs finished the loss with 60 shot attempts to the Wild's 54.
"I didn't like our first period. They come out really strong in this building. They outworked in the first, but we made some mental mistakes," Bednar said. "We gave them some easy goals in the first period. You can't give a team like the Wild easy goals. They're too stingy defensively. I didn't mind our second and third actually, to be honest. I thought we came alive a little bit. They're still a hard team to get to the interior of the ice on. We did a decent job through the second and third period, but we just couldn't climb out of the hole we dug ourselves in the first period."
"We talked about it in the room, making sure we [have] a good first 10 minutes. We keep these guys off the scoresheet in the first 10 minutes, I think we have a good chance of winning this one," said Landeskog. "All of the sudden, the five-minute mark rolls around and they get one and then they get two right after. So it's disappointing because you look at the last game, we played at home right before we got here, in Pepsi Center versus St. Louis.
"We played a solid game, and we keep doing it to ourselves this year where we have a solid game and then we just can't seem to follow it up. I don't really have an answer for it, but that goes to show you that we have a lot of work to do."
Another Colorado rookie, Tyson Jost, skated in his second NHL game and finished with one shot, one hit and one takeaway in 15:56 of ice time. He went 4-for-7 in the faceoff circle and also saw 56 seconds of playing time on the team's second power-play unit.
Avalanche forward Sven Andrighetto continues to make the most out of his opportunity with Colorado.
The 24-year-old right wing picked up the lone assist on Rantanen's breakaway marker after creating the play with a stretch pass up the middle of the ice to the rookie, who moved into the Minnesota zone and buried his chance.
Andrighetto, who was acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline on March 1, now has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 15 contests since joining the Avalanche. Additionally, his 11 points last month led all Avalanche players in March, as did his five goals. The native of Zurich, Switzerland, had a career-long four-game point streak from March 23-29, which included back-to-back multi-point games on March 27 at the Calgary Flames (two goals) and March 29 versus the Washington Capitals (two assists), both of which tied career highs.
Andrighetto is two games away from reaching the 100-match milestone.