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Special Teams The Difference In Loss To Leafs

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

TORONTO—Much like in baseball, if a team gives up four errors in a game, its chances of winning dramatically decreases. The same can be said of hockey and giving up power-play goals.

The Colorado Avalanche witnessed that first hand Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre as the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times with the man advantage and won 5-1.

"We're better than that on both sides, power play and PK this year," Colorado forward Jarome Iginla said. "Tonight we weren't very good, and they were very good. You have to give them credit. They made some nice plays on their power play and that was the difference."

Overall, it was not a good special-teams night for the Avs as they couldn't score on any of their four power-play opportunities and allowed a goal while being a man up on the ice as well.

Leo Komarov's short-handed tally 3:21 into the game set the tone for the Colorado special units, one that they could never fully recover from.

"Our power play, I thought we had some momentum at the start of the game. I thought we had a good start," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said of his club's first power-play chance that resulted in Komarov's goal. "We were just sloppy to give them two great scoring chances shorthanded, which we were on the power play then. You cannot win on the road if your power play and penalty killing isn't playing some good hockey.

"Our power play cost us a goal, and they scored four on the power play. It was the story of the game."

During 5-on-5 action, the Avalanche looked like the better offensive team. Colorado outshot Toronto 35-30 overall and 32-21 at even strength, but it only found the back of the cage on Erik Johnson's goal off a faceoff win at 12:04 of the second period.

"I thought we had a big goal there by [Johnson] to make it 3-1," Iginla said. "I thought we had a chance there, but they had some big [penalty] kills and they ended up getting another power-play one."

Colorado had its chances through the first two periods. It held a 25-21 edge in shots on goal and a 42-38 edge in shots attempted after 40 minutes, but the Maple Leafs did a good job of blocking pucks and clearing rebounds in front of goaltender James Reimer.

"I thought we did some good things 5-on-5, especially in the first period," Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin said of the positives the team can take from the contest.

Despite the bad night, Roy isn't necessarily concerned with what happened on special teams on Tuesday, given the fact that the club has had some solid outings on the penalty kill the past few games. The Avs went 6-for-7 during the first three games of the road trip and came into the contest against the Leafs as the 10th best penalty-kill team at 82.1 percent (46-for-56).

"I guess we just had an off night," Roy said. "Our penalty killing was really good in Montreal. It was really good in Boston. It was really good in Philly. Then let's not panic over that game, but obviously we need to learn from it."

The last time the Avalanche allowed multiple power-play tallies in a contest was on Oct. 27 at Florida (three).

In the previous nine games since that outing in South Florida, Colorado only surrendered four man-advantage goals.

The Avs need another strong response, and they can do it on Thursday against the Penguins. Pittsburgh is tied for 27th in the league on the power play at 14.3 percent.

VARLAMOV MAKING PROGRESS

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov appears to be heading in the right direction in his rehabilitation of a groin injury as he practiced with the club during Tuesday's morning skate.

The Samara, Russia, native took part in the entire 22-minute practice and stayed out after the formal session to do extra work with goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

"He said it was a really good day. We'll see tomorrow," Roy said Tuesday morning. "After today, [he'll let me know] how he feels tomorrow. If he feels good again, we'll put him on the ice again in Pittsburgh."

Colorado traveled to Pittsburgh after the contest and is scheduled to practice on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center. The Avalanche plays the Penguins on Thursday.

Tuesday's game was the third that Varlamov watched from afar after hurting his groin during morning skate on Nov. 10 in Philadelphia. He was placed on Colorado's injured-reserve list on Sunday, retroactive to Nov. 10, mainly to make room for waiver pickup Chris Wagner.

MITCHELL RE-INJURED

Forward John Mitchell missed the contest against the Maple Leafs after he re-injured his oblique during the team's previous outing on Saturday in Montreal.

Mitchell did not skate with the club at practice on Monday or during morning skate on Tuesday. Roy said on Monday that the center's status is considered day-to-day.

The Oakville, Ontario, native missed four games earlier this month after first suffering the ailment in the third period of the Nov. 1 contest against San Jose. He returned to the Avs lineup last Thursday in Boston.

NUMBER CHANGE

New Avalanche forward Chris Wagner wore No. 36 on Tuesday night, but it was be a one-time occurrence. Wagner will wear No. 62 for the rest the season, and he only wore the digits against the Maple Leafs because of some bad weather after he was acquired on waivers during the club's season-long, seven-game road trip.

The team couldn't be guaranteed that Wagner's new jersey would ship from Denver to Toronto on time due to a snowstorm that hit Colorado on Monday. The Avalanche travels with every organizational sweater and had extra ones to repurpose for short-term use.

Wagner's permanent jersey should be waiting for him once the team arrives in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

He wore No. 62 previously with the Ducks.

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