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Strong Finish Doesn't Cut It For Avs

Colorado controlled the play for most of the game in loss to Winnipeg

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

When competing at the highest level of the sport, not playing a full 60 minutes of hockey won't cut it on most days. It usually takes three periods of solid play to win in the NHL.

The Colorado Avalanche was reminded of that fact on Friday evening. The Avs outshot the Winnipeg Jets 37-21 overall and 31-11 in the final two periods, but they couldn't solve goaltender Michael Hutchinson in a 1-0 loss at Pepsi Center.

"I think we dominated the last two periods," said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, reflecting back on the team's chances in the final two frames. "I think our power play was good, created momentum every time we were out there. We didn't give them much on their power play. Obviously, we had quite a few scoring chances and a few there in the third that were dancing on the goal line but couldn't seem to get that last touch on it, put it in the back of the net. I think we started playing like we want to play the last two periods."

Colorado's power-play units were held off the scoresheet for the third time this season, going 0-for-4 with the extra man on the ice. Despite that fact, head coach Jared Bednar was pleased with the scoring chances that were generated while having the man advantage.

"I loved our power play actually. That's probably the most I've liked our power play all year to be honest," Bednar said. "The one power play in the second period, two full minutes in their zone. If you're doing that and you're shooting and you're creating some good looks, that's pretty good. I'll take that power play over and over again. Even the one late in the third, when we need a goal to win, their guys made some big blocks in front of the net, one right in front of the crease."

Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference

The Avalanche's two second-period power plays seemed to jump start its offense, slanting the ice in its direction.

Colorado finished the night with a 68-42 advantage in shot attempts. The team had 32 attempts in the final stanza, but none of the pucks that went in the direction of Hutchinson were able to find twine.

"We had a lot of chances. I think I looked at the shots [total] and we were at like 33 and 16 missed shots," said Avs defenseman Eric Gelinas. "We had chances. We just have to find a way to put it into the back of the net."

The schedule makers didn't do Colorado any favors in the first two weeks of the 2016-17 campaign. After having one of the latest season openers, the Avs went on a tough road trip on the East Coast to play against four teams that very well could be competing for the Stanley Cup come June. Then after returning home, the club had five days between games--which is quite unusual considering players are used to playing every other night or only having two or three days between contests.

After four days of practice, the Avs wanted to have a good first period but instead chased the Jets for most of the frame in their own end.

"I don't know what it was. Coaches told us to be ready and have a good first shift, good first period, and I don't think we did it," Gelinas said. "I think they had a better period than us in the first period, and we won the rest of the game."

Video: Gabriel Landeskog talks about the loss

Could rust been a factor in the team's sluggish play at times? It shouldn't have been, according to Landeskog.

"I think we had time to prepare for this one," Landeskog said. "We had time to work on everything that we wanted to work on, so we're not using that as an excuse."

Bednar echoed his captain's statement.

"I don't like making excuses. We should be ready to go," Bednar said. "We stood around a little bit, turned some pucks over, soft plays, not engaged right from the drop of the puck. It didn't cost us the game; we have to find a way to get one by their goaltender, and we made a mistake on the goal that they had. We got over extended a little bit on a shift and some guys were tired and they go into the D-zone and it cost us."

The good news for the Avs is that they don't have to wait another five days to play a game. The team will be back at it in less than 24 hours as it travels to Arizona to take on the Coyotes on Saturday night.

Forcing a short memory by immediately looking at the next contest on the schedule is a good method to get over a loss.

"It's the best way to do it, just turn the page and get right back at it tomorrow," Landeskog said. "We really got to make sure that we get back to playing the way we want to on the road and get a big road win tomorrow."

SEASON DEBUTS

Saturday's game marked the season opener for two Avs, as forwards John Mitchell and Mikko Rantanen made their debuts after missing the first five contests.

Rantanen began the year in AHL with the San Antonio Rampage in order to get back up to speed after injuring his ankle during the Rookie Showcase on Sept. 17, while Mitchell missed all of the preseason and the first two weeks of the year with a hurt hip flexor.

"This is my home opener, basically, my first game," Mitchell said after Friday's morning skate. "You always want to come into the game and play hard and see where you're at. Obviously, these guys have had preseason and five games to get themselves going and whatnot. So I just want to get up to speed as fast as I can."

Mitchell played 11:58 and won four of his five faceoffs while centering the fourth line. Rantanen had a solid first game, seeing 18:16 of ice time and recording two shots on goal in a top-six role.

"I thought he was great," Bednar said of Rantanen, who turns 20 years old on Saturday. "I thought he had some good jump in his legs. He played with energy, created some scoring chances. Defensively, he was fine. I thought it was a great first showing."

OFF TO ARIZONA

The Avalanche continues its second back-to-back set of the season on Saturday as it goes to the desert to take on the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena.

Colorado is going to play 11 back-to-backs during the 2016-17 campaign after participating in 10 last year. The Avs are 0-1 so far in the second contest after playing the night before.

Goaltender Calvin Pickard will start in the crease for the Avalanche after Semyon Varlamov guarded the pipes on Friday versus Winnipeg. Pickard won his lone start this season, making 28 saves in Pittsburgh on Oct. 17.

The forecast on Saturday calls for the high temperature to be 93 degrees Fahrenheit outside in Glendale, Arizona. Luckily, it should be a lot cooler inside the arena, hopefully.

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