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Round 1

Avalanche beset by injuries in first-round loss to Predators

Losing Varlamov, Johnson, issues on power play too much to overcome

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche's first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2014 ended with a 5-0 loss to the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round at Pepsi Center on Sunday.

"It's not the way you want to finish, that's for sure," Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog said. "But nonetheless I'm proud of this team. I'm sure it's a feel-good story from where we were 12 months ago to here. But you always want more and unless you win the last game of the season, I don't think you're ever going to be satisfied."

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Avalanche series coverage]

 

After finishing last in the NHL with 22 wins and 48 points in 2016-17, the Avalanche clinched the second wild card into the playoffs from the West with 43 wins and 95 points. They earned it in the final regular-season game with a 5-2 win against the St. Louis Blues.

"It was a good bounce-back year," center Nathan MacKinnon said. "It's a cool story that we went from last to the playoffs, but we're trying to win a Cup and obviously it's disappointing that we showed up and lost 5-0 in an elimination game.

"There's some positives. We have a young team going forward. We showed a lot of fight this season, there's a lot of adversity that we overcame. Hopefully we can use some of that next season."

Here are 5 reasons the Avalanche were eliminated:

 

1. Health issues

The Avalanche played without No. 1 goalie Semyon Varlamov and their best all-around defenseman, Erik Johnson. Varlamov injured his knee against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 30, two days after Johnson crashed into the boards against the Philadelphia Flyers and fractured his kneecap.

The Avalanche lost defenseman Samuel Girard for three games to a lower-body injury. He returned for Games 5 and 6. Goalie Jonathan Bernier started the first four games, but he sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of Game 4.

Andrew Hammond, who played in one NHL regular-season game, stopped all eight shots he faced in the third period after Bernier couldn't continue. He started Games 5 and 6, making 44 saves in a 2-1 win and 32 saves in the series-ending loss.

 

2. Not so special teams

The Avalanche went 2-for-20 on the power play (10 percent). Landeskog scored both goals on 5-on-3s. They were 1-for-10 in three home games and 1-for-10 in three road games.

Colorado had trouble killing penalties in the first three games, allowing three goals in 10 shorthanded situations. They killed all nine Predators power plays in the final three games, finishing 16-for-19 (84.2 percent).

 

3. Couldn't contain Forsberg

Predators forward Filip Forsberg had six points (four goals, two assists) in the series, and all four goals came at critical times.

Video: NSH@COL, Gm6: Forsberg converts on odd-man rush

Forsberg broke open Game 1 with two goals 6:02 apart in the third period to give Nashville a 4-2 lead in an eventual 5-2 win. He skated by Girard to score a highlight-reel goal to put the Predators ahead 3-2 and added the insurance goal.

Forsberg did it again in Game 4, going end-to-end for a 1-0 lead with 4:27 left in the first period of a 3-2 win. His goal 38 seconds into the second period of Game 6 gave the Predators a 3-0 lead and deflated the Avalanche.

 

4. Inexperience

Nine Avalanche players made their playoff debuts: Girard, Sven Andrighetto, J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost, Alexander Kerfoot, Mikko Rantanen, Duncan Siemens, David Warsofsky and Nikita Zadorov.

"I think it's a big experience for a lot of guys," Rantanen said. "We had a lot of guys who were in their first year in the League and it was only my second year, so I'm still learning some things, especially postseason. I think next year our ultimate goal is to get in playoffs again and it's going to be easier for everybody."

 

5. Home-ice disadvantage

The Avalanche won 28 regular-season games at Pepsi Center to tie a franchise record set by the 2001 Cup winning team, but lost two of their three playoff games at home. They played their worst game of the series in Game 6.

***

 

Complete Coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Predators vs. Avalanche

Jets vs. Wild

Golden Knights vs. Kings

Ducks vs. Sharks

Lightning vs. Devils

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Capitals vs. Blue Jackets

Penguins vs. Flyers

 

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