The second half of the Colorado Avalanche's season started with a six-game Eastern road swing; holy moley! Game One of that road trip saw the Avs in Madison Square Garden, and it was an overtime loss to the New York Rangers. The team had to get right back to work on the following day, but the Avs didn't have to go too far, as this game was in New Jersey against the Devils. The first meeting was a wild one that saw a lot of chaos and penalties, but the Avalanche prevailed.
The goaltender matchup was Justus Annunen vs Vitek Vanacek, but the madness got started early. Just 83 seconds into the game, Mikko Rantanen scored his 28th goal of the season, but 42 seconds later, Chris Tierney tied it up for the Devils, who were still playing without Jack Hughes (though he may be back pretty soon). The Avs had the first power play; it was killed off, but the Avs had a big shots advantage; 10-3 just over halfway. The Devils started racking up shots in the latter half of the frame, ending with a 13-12 advantage, but the game was still tied at 1.
The Devils really took over in the 2nd period. Their pressing resulted in Jesper Bratt netting his 20th of the season, and just a hair under three minutes later, it was Dawson Mercer making it 3-1. They didn't stop pressing; they had more control than the Avs did, but Annunen managed to keep the came from getting completely out of hand. The score remained 3-1 after 40 minutes, and it's thanks to Annunen that the score wasn't worse. I spent a good bit of the third period hoping for something to happen for the Avalanche, and finally, Cale Makar made something happen.
Makar's shot went in and made it a one goal game, and 29 seconds later, another defenseman, Samuel Girard, tied things up. The Avs dominated the shots; leading 16-2 at one point. As the time was winding down, it looked like overtime would be close. John Marino changed that. At 17:43, Marino gave the Devils their lead back, and with about 90 seconds left in regulation, Annunen was pulled for the extra attacker. The Avs couldn't muster an actual shot, and an offsides call all but cinched it, though Erik Haula's empty-netter did it as well.
Game Two did not go so well for the Avalanche; after that first goal, it seemed to go downhill for the team. It was all Devils in the 2nd, there was a spark in the third, but the Devils snuffed it out late. With the Dallas Stars' win in Buffalo, the Avs are down to second place in the Central; tied in points, but Dallas now has a game in hand. Another attribute: Nathan MacKinnon was shut out for the first time in 15 games, and the second time in close to two months. He remains tied for the overall league lead in points with 85, as the Tampa Bay Lightning didn't play on this evening.
The Avalanche are now 0-1-1 on this road trip, and the next four games will see the team against all four members of the original Southeast Division. Game Three of this road swing will take place on Thursday in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes.
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