This road trip went from bad to worse for the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
And they’re only 1/3 of the way through it.
After a pretty competitive first period, the Florida Panthers stepped on the throats of the Avalanche, dominating play for the final 40 minutes of the game on their way to a 4-0 shutout victory. It really wasn’t all that close once the second period started, as Florida imposed their will on the road team. With the loss, the Avalanche have dropped four straight games after going on a 13-3-1 run prior to the All-Star break.
After the loss, the Avalanche held a player-only meeting in the locker room. Will that wake the team up? The better question might be – will we see any personnel changes before Tuesday night?
There really were no bright spots for the Avalanche, but if you are looking for anything to hang your hat on, Alexandar Georgiev wasn’t that bad. He was forced to make 39 stops on the night, including 26 in the second period alone.
Special teams matter, and in the first period, it made a huge difference.
So did goaltending.
At one end, Sergei Bobrovsky was on fire. The Avalanche got the first powerplay of the game, and for the first time in a few games, it showed signs of life. Mikko Rantanen had a few looks at the side of the net, but he missed the net on one, and was robbed by Bobrovsky on another.
On Florida’s first powerplay of the evening, which came off an offensive zone penalty from Logan O’Connor, it took very little time for them to take advantage. Carter Verhaeghe was left all alone on the backdoor, and Alex Barkov hit him with an easy pass. Verhaeghe’s first shot hit Georgiev, but he tapped home the rebound with ease, giving the Panthers the 1-0 lead.
Colorado did push back after the goal. They had a few shifts where they pushed the pace in the offensive zone, but Bobrovsky gave them nothing. Cale Makar faked out a Florida forward so bad with a move that he disappeared from the screen completely, but Makar couldn’t beat the Panthers netminder up high. On a rush a little later, Nathan MacKinnon whiffed on his attempt, but it still managed to sneak through Bobrovsky’s legs. It didn’t end up in the net, though. The puck trickled through the crease and to the other side of the net, where the Panthers were able to clear it out.
Florida received another powerplay late in the first after Devon Toews was called for hooking while battling in front of the net. Again, it took very little time for them to take advantage. Sam Reinhart, who torched Colorado the last time they played the Panthers, was left all alone in the slot. Reinhart, who leads the league in powerplay goals, added another to his collection, as his one-time shot beat Georgiev on the glove side.
The Avalanche didn’t necessarily play a bad period, especially at even strength, but special teams were the difference to start the game. Unfortunately, this was where Colorado peaked on Saturday.
Florida looks like they’re going to be a nightmare for any team in the Eastern Conference to deal with come playoff time, and that was on display in the second period. They dominated the Avalanche from start to finish, and there were long periods of time where Colorado couldn’t even touch the puck.
All in all, the Panthers finished period two with 27 shots on goal. No, that’s not how much they finished the game with. That’s how many shots the put on Alexandar Georgiev in the second period alone. It was a clinic, and Colorado looked stuck in mud.
For most of the second, Georgiev held them off with some big-time saves, but there was only so much he could do. With just over two minutes remaining the period, a Kulikov point shot was deflected in the high slot by Luostarinen. That slight change of direction caused the rebound to be kicked into the slot, and the Finnish forward easily escape Ryan Johansen, who was covering him. He smacked home the rebound, making it 3-0.
It was total domination, the type of period that should wake up a veteran squad like Colorado. Would it?
It did not.
Jared Bednar went to the blender to start the third, putting MacKinnon between O’Connor and Wood. He moved Ryan Johansen down to the fourth line, maybe to finally send a message to him, but at this point, the game looked over anyway. Florida didn’t take their foot off the gas, and the Avalanche gave them an easy one early, as Barkov picked up his 12th of the season off some miscommunication and a turnover by Sam Girard.
The period was made even worse when Nathan MacKinnon left the game after hitting his face on the ice. He was bleeding from his mouth and left the bench, but with the game out of hand, there was no reason for him to return.
Florida put the finishing touches on a shutout win over the Avalanche, handing them their fourth straight loss. A total statement game from them, and a loss that should force Colorado to look in the mirror a little bit.
The road trip isn’t about to get any easier, as Colorado now has to head to Washington to take on the Capitals. They dominated them in their only game this season, but Alex Ovechkin has woken up recently, and with the way the Avalanche have played, nothing will be easy. That game starts on Tuesday at 5 PM MST.