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Tough End To Avs' Swan Song At "The Joe"

The Red Wings scored four third period goals to top Avalanche

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

DETROIT--For the first two period of Saturday's matinee against the Detroit Red Wings, the Colorado Avalanche was playing some pretty good hockey.

Though down 1-0 on the scoreboard entering the third frame, the Avs were getting good scoring chances and held a solid advantage in both shots on goal and shots attempted.

They even tied the game early in final stanza, but the wheels came off soon after.

The Red Wings finished the contest with four straight goals and the Avalanche lost 5-1 in the team's final contest at Joe Louis Arena.

"I thought we outplayed them for most of the game, but that's just how our season's going. So it's tough," said forward Nathan MacKinnon, who recorded Colorado's only tally.

The official scorers registered four giveaways from the Avs in the third period, and most of those led to the puck in the back of their net.

"They end up getting three rush-goals in the third period and the power play," said head coach Jared Bednar. "So obviously not a great finish. We have to be much better than that, but I liked our game up until that point."

Colorado finished with a 24-23 edge in shots on goal and a 48-40 advantage in attempted shots. However, only MacKinnon's redirection of the puck off his skate at 3:44 of the third got past goaltender Jimmy Howard.

"We got a big goal there at the start, and then I wasn't good enough," said Avs goaltender Calvin Pickard. "Obviously, that was a big, painful third period. Once they got one then they started feeling it, and we just had no answer for it."

Tomas Tatar led the way for the Wings as he scored back-to-back goals in a 1:36 span to give Detroit a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

"It's a frustrating loss because we have a chance to scratch and claw our way back into that (game), and we stayed with our game the whole time until that point," Bednar said.

This was the second meeting in four days between these once Western Conference rivals, with Colorado winning the first outing 3-1 on Wednesday in Pepsi Center.

The Avs knew what they were facing when it came to the speed that some of the Red Wings' younger players possess. But unlike three days earlier, Colorado couldn't contain it and the club got burned because of it.

"We saw that in our game the other night at home, and we wanted to make sure we were grinding them down a little bit in the offensive zone and putting pucks in behind them," Bednar said. "When you think about it, that's how they got us tonight, the rush chances and the rush-goals against. Part of that was caused by them coming at us, part of it was our puck decisions and a couple soft plays in the middle of the ice."


With the Avalanche and Red Wings now in their fourth season of being in different conferences, Colorado only comes to Detroit once a season. That made Saturday's matchup the first and last of the season at Joe Louis Arena.

It also marked the Avs' last game at the 1979-built rink, with the Red Wings moving into new Little Caesars Arena next season.

"This is my fourth time playing in this arena. It's too bad that I only got to play here four times, but it's cool," MacKinnon said. "They showed a little video of the history of the [Stanley Cup] Finals there, and that was definitely great hockey. Hopefully both of our organizations can get back to that level."

MacKinnon's first game at the home of the Red Wings was a memorable one, as he had the primary assist on the Avs' game-winning goal in overtime on March 6, 2014. That helper extended his point streak to 13 games, breaking Wayne Gretzky's record for the longest stretch with either a goal or an assist by an 18-year-old.

Pickard's previous game at the rink was more of a moment that he'll want to remember, as he picked up the victory on Dec. 21, 2014 after a nine-round shootout.

"It's a lot of fun. It's a good atmosphere," Pickard said. "Got a win in here a couple years ago, but today was painful."


Left wing Matt Nieto was back in the Colorado lineup after missing the club's last game on Wednesday with a minor knee injury.

The odd forward out against the Red Wings was Mikhail Grigorenko, who joined defensemen Cody Goloubef and Patrick Wiercioch as healthy scratches.

Goaltender Calvin Pickard made his sixth consecutive start in net and finished with 18 saves.


The Avalanche completes its 10th back-to-back set of the season on Sunday as the club takes on the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. It is the fourth of five matchups between the Central Division foes, and the last one in Chicago.

Colorado is 1-2-0 this year versus the Blackhawks and has split its two games in the Windy City. The Avalanche won the last matchup, taking a 2-1 overtime victory on Dec. 23.

The Avs will play one more back-to-back this year; the final two regular-seasons contests at Dallas and St. Louis April 8-9.

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