If the Colorado Avalanche need an extra spark heading into the final five-pack of games, they have it — courtesy of themselves.
A 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks not only snapped their three-game winning streak, but also sent the Avalanche into Friday’s road clash with the Los Angeles Kings (21-24-6, 48 points) with extra motivation.
The Avalanche (34-13-4, 72 points) blew a 2-0 lead and lost in regulation when leading after two periods for the first time this season, which leaves them four points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for top spot in the West Division and just one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild. The Avalanche have one game in hand on both Vegas and Minnesota, and will look for a rebound performance, particularly from the top forward line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen and the top defense pairing of Devon Toews and Cale Makar.
“The top line and top ‘D’ were on for both goals against,” coach Jared Bednar said before adding. “Not enough importance put on our checking from that group of guys.”
Bednar admitted that group has been key to Colorado’s success this season, and even with the loss, the Avalanche are on a 13-5-0 run in their last 18 games. But with five games remaining — two in Los Angeles before one in Vegas and then two home dates against the Kings — this isn’t a time to lose focus.
“We didn’t execute, didn’t play up to our standards. It’s disappointing. We had a big opportunity to get up there in the standings and we let it slip,” forward Tyson Jost said. “It’s not acceptable in our dressing room. We know that, and we have to be better.”
While the Golden Knights, Avalanche and Wild have all clinched berths into the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Kings are still mathematically alive in the chase for fourth place currently held by the St. Louis Blues. Having won two straight games, the Kings (eight points back) must run the table and receive a bunch of help. Even the first part won’t be easy as the Avalanche have won three of their four meetings this season.
That said, the big story after the Kings claimed a 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday was captain Anze Kopitar becoming just the fourth player in franchise history to collect his 1,000th career point with the team. Kopitar is the 91st player in league history to reach that milestone and the first from his native country of Slovenia.
“It was very hard to imagine. Being a kid, you always have a dream, right? To make it to the NHL and to win the Stanley Cup, to have a long career, a successful career,” he said. “I was almost a little bit naive to think that, but I guess not, 15 years later, being in this position, it’s exciting and I’m very humble. ‘Thankful’ comes to mind.”
“It’s incredible for him. We’re along for the ride,” coach Todd McLellan said. “I’m certainly proud of him but I’m honored to be able to coach him. It’s a pleasure to have that type of person around your locker room on a daily basis. He makes everybody better, including the coaching staff. His passion and energy for the game is contagious.”
On a night Kopitar, the team’s 2005 first-round draft pick, became part of a prestigious club, their 2020 first-round pick, Quinton Byfield, netted his first career point with an assist.
“Equally exciting,” McLellan said of the center who was drafted second overall. “For Quinton getting his first one … he made a nice back-check, an effort play. It may not have been a pretty play, but it’s an important play.”
–Field Level Media