San Jose scores final six goals to defeat Avalanche 6-2
The first game to begin the Avalanche’s busiest month in club history turned into a dud.
Colorado, which entered Monday on a three-game road winning streak, scored the first two goals of the game but lost control and absorbed a 6-2 defeat against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.
Tied 2-2 after two periods, the Sharks got goals from Rudolfs Balcers, Erik Karlsson (power play) and John Leonard within a seven-minute span in the third in winning the opener of the two-game set in San Jose.
Evander Kane scored an empty-net goal with 1:07 remaining for San Jose, which was outshot by a 2-to-1 margin early and 35-27 for the game.
“We kind of gave this win to them,” said Avs winger Mikko Rantanen, who appeared in his 300th career game. “Start of the third period it’s a 2-2 hockey game on the road and the first five minutes were in the D-zone. For the whole five minutes, we’re in the D-zone. I don’t think that’s the start you’re looking for in a road game, (tied) 2-2.”
He added: “It’s very frustrating.”
The Avs’ Sam Girard and Gabe Landeskog scored to give goalie Philipp Grubauer a 2-0 lead, but it was all downhill from there as Colorado played the first of 17 games in 31 days this month.
The Avalanche was without two important young defensemen. Cale Makar, 22, didn’t make the trip to San Jose. He instead flew to Denver on his own from Arizona on Sunday to be further evaluated for an upper-body injury that kept him out of Saturday’s 6-2 win against the Coyotes. Bo Byram, 19, was scratched after the morning skate, with the club saying he, too, has an upper-body injury.
Daniel Renouf again stepped in for Makar and Conor Timmins came off the taxi squad to replace Byram.
Colorado built a 2-0 lead with a late first-period goal from Girard and a power-play goal from Landeskog early in the second.
Girard’s goal, a wrister from the right circle, marked the 14th time in 19 games the Avalanche scored first. The Avs dropped to 10-3-1 when doing so. Landeskog’s backhand from beside the net served as the 203rd tally of his career, surpassing fellow Swede Peter Forsberg for third-most in an Avalanche sweater.
Landeskog also tied Forsberg with 54 career power-play goals, fourth in club history. Star center MacKinnon had an assist on the play to tie Alex Tanguay (321) for fourth in club history.
The Sharks rallied to tie it 2-2 with even-strength goals at 6:13 and 16:48 of the middle frame. Defenseman Radim Simek pinched from the blue line and quickly fired a shot from between the circles, and Kevin Labanc tapped in a feed from the doorstep.
The Avs had carried the play for much of the game until Labanc’s goal. And then everything changed.
“I think the turning point was a handful of minutes into the second period,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Our first period, we came out, we competed, we played hard, we were doing the right things. We were putting pucks in behind their D and going to work. We were hanging onto to pucks in the offensive zone, skating, making it tough for them to defend and forcing them to defend in their own zone and using our skill and our speed and our legs. We drew some penalties, got some power plays and had some good scoring chances …
“We came out and started the second the same way, and then when we built the 2-0 lead after the power-play goal we got stubborn and we turned the puck over, tried to score on the rush, got fancy and got away from our game plan. Guys are saying the right things on the bench but the next line up was going out and kind of repeating the same mistakes. We had way too many turnovers.”
The rematch at SAP Center is Wednesday night, the fourth game of the six-game road trip for the Avs, who also play at Anaheim on Friday and Saturday.
Footnotes: Centers Nazem Kadri and MacKinnon had seven and six shots after two periods, respectively, but neither had one in the third. … Wingers Brandon Saad and Andre Burakovsky were held shotless. Toews logged a team-high 27:02 but also didn’t produce a shot. … Defenseman Ryan Graves was minus-4. … The Avs’ scratches were Makar, Byram and forward Matt Calvert (upper-body injury). Defensemen Erik Johnson and Dennis Gilbert and goalie Pavel Francouz remain on long-term injury reserve. The Avs finished 5-3 last month, their 11th consecutive “winning” month and the longest stretch in club history. The previous record was 10 straight from March 2000 to October 2001. Colorado won the Stanley Cup in 2000-01.