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Sluggish Start Hinders Avs

Colorado falls to Calgary to begin homestand

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

With both teams in the second half of a back-to-back, Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar summed up his team's performance against the Calgary Flames in a simple manner.

Calgary was ready from the drop of the puck while Colorado was not. 

"We came out, we didn't have our legs really early. I thought we did a lot of standing around in the first period," Bednar said. "To me, it looked like we weren't committed or willing to play the right way tonight in order to get the job done. Especially when you don't have your legs, it makes it more important that you have to do the right things all the time, with and without the puck. We had half of our guys doing that, and some of the other guys went off on their own. What it turns into is sloppy hockey, turnovers all over the place and scoring chances against."

Despite the slow start, the Avalanche was in striking distance to tie the game late and force overtime. Nikita Zadorov tallied his second goal of the season with 2:54 remaining, but Colorado struggled to generate quality scoring chances with the extra attacker in the final minutes and lost 3-2 to the Flames on Saturday at Pepsi Center. 

The Avs didn't register a shot attempt after Zadorov's marker. 

"I think it was more our own fault," said forward Mikko Rantanen, who scored Colorado's other goal. "Of course, they did a good job. We should have managed the puck better there and made better plays in the last minute. You have to get possession first of all if you want to score on the 6-on-5. It wasn't good enough." 

Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference

The Avalanche had a few more hours of rest than the Flames in the second of consecutive-day contests. Colorado's Saturday afternoon game in Minnesota ended in the early evening and the club was back in Denver by the time Calgary's game at the Dallas Stars was in the third period. 

The extra recovery time didn't show early on, as the Flames controlled possession and came out with 16 more shot attempts than the Avs in the opening frame (29-13).

"We didn't make it tough enough on them tonight," Bednar said. "They're playing back-to-back too so I don't think either team was flying out there, but they were committed to playing the right way from the start of the game and we weren't." 

Colorado ended up finishing with a slight 28-26 edge on shots on goal, but Calgary finished with 66-57 margin in attempts after its strong first period. 

"I thought we should have had the advantage. We were in bed pretty early last night; they were still playing when we got home," said Avs netminder Jonathan Bernier. "They are obviously a good team, but I thought we could have been a little more hungry tonight."

Video: Bernier after Avs loss to Flames

Rantanen's marker tied the contest at 1-1 with 5:28 to play in the middle period, but the Flames scored twice in a matter of 22 seconds in the final minute before the intermission to take a lead it wouldn't relinquish. 

Calgary's tallies were a tough blow for the Avs, who had started to find their game offensively but were forced to play catchup again. 

"We just had to put that behind us and have a good start to the third," said Colorado rookie Dominic Toninato. "We had to throw everything we had at them and leave it all out there. I think the guys did a good job fighting all the way until the end."

The Avalanche has four days before taking the ice again, as the team continues its five-game homestand against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday evening.

Having some time to rest and reflect on its game after playing three outings in four days comes at a good time for the club, according to Bednar.

"I'm confident in our guys that we'll bounce back here," Bednar said. "It doesn't guarantee anything, we got to get back to work. We got to look at that game and address it as a team and why it happened and try to move forward from it."

POWER-PLAY SPECIALIST

Mikko Rantanen continues to be a dangerous special-teams weapon as he recorded his seventh goal of the season and sixth on the power play on Saturday night.

Rantanen's six man-advantage markers lead the Avalanche and is tied for fifth in the NHL, one off the league lead of seven. His power-play goals are the most on the team since the 2015-16 season.

The Avs right wing also has 11 power-play points this year, which ranks tied for eighth in the NHL.

Colorado entered the contest with one of the best special-teams units on home ice, ranking fourth overall in both power-play (27.8) and penalty-kill (92.6) percentage.

Video: Mikko Rantanen after the Avs loss to Flames

VARLAMOV UPDATE

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov missed his third consecutive game with an illness but is eyeing a return to the lineup for the Avalanche's next contest on Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets.

"I'll have three days between games, and it should be enough time to prepare myself for the next game," Varlamov said on Saturday.

Video: Varlamov talks about his health

The biggest hurdle for Varlamov is getting practices in so he can face a variety of shots. He returned to the ice on Thursday, skated on Friday and participated in the team's optional morning skate on Saturday.

"I came back after I was sick for three days, and I only had one practice with the team and the team left and I skated by myself yesterday," Varlamov said. "It's hard to prepare yourself for the game with only one shooter, so we decided that I'm not playing [Saturday]."

Varlamov's last outing was this past Saturday when he made 19 saves at the Nashville Predators.

Jonathan Bernier has started each of the last four contests for Colorado, with recently-acquired and recalled goalie Andrew Hammond backing up for the past three games.

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