Avs fall short to Penguins in overtime
J.T. Compher could only watch, helpless, as the puck seeped across the goal line.
After 40 stellar minutes and 16 more breathless ones for the Avalanche, a bad bounce off Pavel Francouz’s pad brought the Penguins even with 3:38 remaining Tuesday night. The Colorado goalie had failed to execute an aggressive poke check seconds earlier, and he wasn’t in position to stop the unusual tying goal. Compher was in the crease, staring directly at the ill-fated puck.
The Penguins went on to win 2-1 on Kris Letang’s overtime goal, handing the Avalanche (2718-4) one of their most deflating losses of the season after they couldn’t convert a 4-on-3 power play.
Wait, who thwarted two of Colorado’s best periods this season?
There was no such thing as post-vacation rust for the Avalanche. They came out of the NHL All-star break outshooting the Penguins 8-0 in the first 11 minutes, 13-2 in the first 14 minutes and still 29-12 late in the second period. It wasn’t until the third that Pittsburgh pressured.
Nathan Mackinnon played his best game of the season, and he was buzzing long before his breakthrough goal in the middle frame. Earlier that period, slick passes from Erik Johnson, Mikko Rantanen and Evan Rodrigues set him up up from the same spot where he eventually scored, at the top of the slot. But spoiling the highlight play was Pittsburgh netminder Casey Desmith.
The Penguins’ goaltending has been their greatest weakness this season, but it ironically kept them afloat against Colorado, no matter how many times Mackinnon sunk his teeth in. Desmith entered with a .901 save percentage in 22 games, averaging 3.35 goals allowed. But without his 41-save clinic Tuesday, the Avs would have blown through Pittsburgh wrecking-ball style.
Mackinnon finished with eight shots on goal, two more off the pipe (including one in OT) and two blocked shots in the third period. He circled the net with the puck on his stick before sniping the Avs’ lone goal, and he was pulling the trigger every few seconds during the overtime power play, chances that satisfied coach Jared Bednar. But they summed up Colorado’s night: Nothing quite found the back of the net.
Jeff Carter blindsides Cale Makar
Makar went to the dressing room for standard concussion protocol in the third period after Carter brushed the defenseman’s
head back with a blindside shoulder check. The referees missed it, and the penalty went uncalled.
Makar returned to the Avalanche bench with about six minutes remaining and was back on the ice with four minutes left.