The streak was always going to end sometime but the way it happened was certainly disappointing. Coming into the game with a 9-0-2 stretch in their last 11 games, the Avalanche finally found their way back to a regulation loss, their first since November 9 in Winnipeg.
It was all Penguins early as they built a quick 3-0 lead in the first period. Colorado scored on the power play but it was challenged for goaltender interference and ultimately overturned, wiping out the goal and keeping it 3-0 after the first period.
Colorado responded with fury in the second period as they rallied from a three-goal deficit and eventually tied the game. It started with a Barrie Bomb from the point and featured goals on the power play, even strength, and short-handed.
It wasn't enough, though, as the Avalanche gave up three more in the third period and fell 6-3. Given they started the third tied, it's certainly a disappointment they couldn't find their way to a point again tonight but these things happen. The Avs were due a stinker after not playing particularly well in their last couple of games and tonight they ran into too talented a team to play blah hockey.
On to Florida.
Takeaways from the game
I'm not really sure how to feel about Pittsburgh's first goal. Guentzel clearly opened his skate to redirect the puck in but he didn't really make the "distinct kicking motion" required for it to be no goal. He very clearly meant to score with his skate, though, so I'm confused what the point of the kicking rule is. If you can purposely deflect a puck into the net with the skate, why can't you kick it in? Why the distinction?
The rest of the onslaught by Pittsburgh was the work of them doing good work mostly. I thought Bednar might have been best served pulling Varlamov then but Bednar has been extremely patient with his goaltenders during his tenure as head coach. He very rarely pulls his goalie and tonight was no exception.
Colorado's shot numbers sure look pretty on paper but they really weren't creating much of anything quality in that first period when they were getting run through. It wasn't one of Colorado's worst periods of the season...until the third, of course.
I've talked about him a lot recently but seriously Matt Nieto is playing great hockey lately. His short-handed goal to tie the game was just awesome. He's really struggled to finish some golden chances lately but he fired a beauty home. He should've had an assist in the third period, too, but Soderberg botched it and couldn't cash in.
Speaking of, I know he had a goal but I really thought Soderberg wasn't very good tonight. His elbow on the goaltender called back Compher's goal in the first period and I thought it was an iffy call but I understand why it was made. Soderberg felt like he was just a man being stalked by bad news tonight. He usually responds well to his poor showings so that's something to look forward to, I suppose.
Semyon Varlamov...what to say? There were some tough deflections tonight and he made a big save or two along the way but giving up six goals is a great way to open the door for your competition. The organization is just looking for an excuse to give more starts to Grubauer and showings like tonight will definitely make that happen. I fully expect Grubauer to start on Thursday when the Avs make land in Florida.
The power play really should have had two more goals tonight but Compher's was taken away. I really need to look up the numbers because it sure seems, anecdotally at least, that Colorado's second PP unit has to be one of the most prolific units in the league in terms of scoring rates. They don't get major minutes but they've produced serious results.
Colorado's top line had moments tonight but they were just a little bit too pedestrian tonight. Rantanen had a breakaway in the second period but couldn't finish. Kind of the story of the night for the top line as they were unable to score at even strength despite piling up a pretty healthy number of chances. Weird to see, given their dominance this year but it was bound to happen eventually.
The way Colorado and Pittsburgh traded 6-3 games was honestly pretty spooky. Each game featured three-goal leads, comebacks, and a natural hat trick by a Penguins player. Sidney Crosby got the hat trick last week but it was Patric Hornqvist tonight, who scored three goals in the third period in a 2:47 span. It was the fastest hat trick in Penguins history but just the 20th-fastest in NHL history.
There have been 19 hat tricks faster than 2:47?? I'm going to need to look those up and see how many came after 1995 because that strikes me as crazy.
It hasn't happened very many times this year but I thought Ian Cole was truly terrible tonight. He was a turnover machine and his decision-making was downright abysmal. He's been one of Colorado's most consistent defensemen this year but this was a night to forget for him against his former club.
Tyson Barrie's return to the lineup saw him play the kind of roller coaster game we've grown accustomed to seeing from him over the years. He scored a goal but part of some porous defense. Offensively, he was really good though. It's clear he's a difference-maker for them on that side of the puck.