The Detroit Red Wings will wrap up their 5-game road trip with a visit to Denver to play the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday afternoon (3 PM EDT on FSD/Altitude/97.1 FM), and the winless-in-9 Wings find themselves in a rare position:
Long story long? The Avs are winning/accumulating points like crazy, so the Wings have the chance to play a spoiler’s role here.
Neither the Wings nor the Avs practiced on Saturday as both teams are coming off back-to-back games, so we’ll examine the Avs’ loss to Nashville for the purposes of this set-up.
According to the Denver Post’s Mike Chambers, the importance of Sunday’s game cannot be understated:
The Avs, who remain in a wild-card playoff spot with 11 remaining games, entered the game having gone 14-1-1 in their last 16 at the Pepsi Center. They conclude their two-game homestand Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings in yet another big game at home.
“They’re all going to be big now,” Colorado captain Gabe Landeskog said. “It’s the best time of year, other than the playoffs. It’s exciting. We’re coming to the rink real excited every day and just itching to play. Tonight, I felt we ran out of gas a little bit even though I really liked our effort.”
Forsberg scored an empty-net goal with 1:09 remaining in the third period, after Colorado failed to capitalize on consecutive power plays. The Avs finished 0-of-4 with the man-advantage.
“Our power play, it just felt like we were a step behind tonight,” said Landeskog, who scored the Avs’ second goal for a 2-1 lead early in the second period. “The ones we had there in the third, I thought we got some good looks. Nate (MacKinnon) had a shot, and Josty (Tyson Jost) had a rebound but it went off his knob. We we’re close, but it just wasn’t clicking the way we wanted.”
Avs coach Jared Bednar is giving his tired team the day off Saturday.
“I thought we were really competitive tonight,” the coach said. “We played hard in most all areas. We took the lead there, 2-1, and had a couple chances shortly after that to maybe stretch that out. But I thought (goalie Juuse) Saros (33 saves) was good in net and we missed on some opportunities … But I gotta be happy with the effort from our team, for sure.”
The Associated Press continues the Avalanche’s narrative…
Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog had the goals for a Colorado team that returned home after earning two straight road wins, including Thursday in St. Louis. The loss snapped Colorado’s string of nine straight games with a point. The squad still remains in the thick of the playoff chase.
Semyon Varlamov turned back 24 shots as he started both games of a back-to-back for the first time this season.
“There’s no rest at this time of the year. We have to make a push,” Varlamov said. “Nashville’s a really good team, tough to play against, but I think we played strong today, had a really good game. We just didn’t score. We had a couple good chances at the end.”
MacKinnon nearly tied the game late in the third period, but his shot hit off the shoulder of Saros. Nashville also weathered two penalties by P.K. Subban in the final period. Colorado pulled Varlamov in the final two minutes and it led to a game-sealing goal by Forsberg into an empty net with 1:09 remaining.
Landeskog gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead in the second, but Forsberg tied it three minutes later. Sissons put the Predators up for good when his shot clanged off the crossbar and dropped into the net.
The Predators have at least one point in a franchise-best 14 consecutive road games.
It was a rare home loss for Colorado, which is 14-2-1 over its last 17 games at the Pepsi Center. Then again, the Predators have long given their Central Division rival fits. They’ve won 10 straight over the Avalanche, including six in a row in Denver.
As does NHL.com’s Rick Sadowski’s recap:
The Avalanche (38-25-8) hold the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Their 84 points are tied with the Dallas Stars, but they have played one fewer game and have more regulation and overtime wins (37-34). Colorado and Dallas are three points behind the Minnesota Wild for third place in the Central Division.
“Nashville’s a really good team, tough to play against, but I think we played strong, had a really good game,” Varlamov said. “We just didn’t score. We had a couple good chances at the end. We deserved at least one point.”
Forsberg scored an empty-net goal with 1:09 left in the third period to make it 4-2.
Sissons gave the Predators a 3-2 lead at 13:39 of the second period with his second goal of the game. Ryan Hartman passed to Sissons for a one-timer from the right face-off circle.
“I’ve always prided myself on showing up when it matters most and being counted on as a reliable teammate,” Sissons said. “The bigger the stakes, you’ve got to raise your level. I was able to prove that last year in the playoffs a little bit and I’ve continued to build on that this season.”
The Predators tied the game 2-2 on Forsberg’s goal at 6:28 of the second after Landeskog gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead at 3:28.
The Avalanche tied it 1-1 on a goal by MacKinnon with 59 seconds left in the first period. MacKinnon was above the circles for a one-timer off a pass from Tyson Barrie.
The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers posted the Avs’ lineup for Friday night’s game…
— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) March 17, 2018
And NHL.com posted a Predators-Avalanche highlight clip:
Avalanche — The Avs took Saturday off after seeing their nine-game points streak (6-0-3) end in Friday’s 4-2 loss to the visiting Nashville Predators. … Center Nathan MacKinnon is on an 11-game points streak and defenseman Tyson Barrie has points in his last nine games, tying a franchise record for a blue-liner. MacKinnon previously had a nine-game points streak this season and is the first Avalanche player to have two different nine-game streaks since Joe Sakic in 2005-06 (13 and 10). MacKinnon leads the NHL in points per game (1.36) and home-ice scoring (60 points) — the most points at home for an Avalanche player since Sakic had 67 in 2000-01. MacKinnon’s 36 goals is the most by a Colorado player since Sakic had 36 in 2006-07. Sakic played in 82 games that season. MacKinnon had played in 63 games. … Goalie Semyon Varlamov played in his 16th consecutive game Friday night and might be called on again, depending on the status of veterans Jonathan Bernier and Andrew Hammond, who both have been unavailable because of head injuries.
Chambers’ “spotlight on” is telling:
Spotlight on: Dylan Larkin. It’s a bad season when your leading scorer has just nine goals (one on the power play) and is minus-14 at this time of the season. Larkin, the Red Wings’ 21-year-old center, leads an offense ranked 29th in the 31-team NHL, averaging just 2.52 goals per game. Larkin was selected with the 15th pick of the 2014 draft and is destined for stardom. But not this year. Not on this team.
STATS’ game preview will provide the rest of our Red Wings context:
Detroit (26-34-11) has lost nine straight and is trying to hold off Buffalo for last place in the Eastern Conference. The impressive run of consecutive playoff seasons — 26 before it ended in 2017 — is a memory. Just getting a win is what matters now.
“It’s really hard right now,” Detroit left winger Anthony Mantha said. “We need to figure out something quick. This is not fun. It’s even embarrassing. We need to figure something out.”
It’ll be tough against a Colorado team that has gone 14-2-1 in its last 17 home games and occupies the first wild card in the Western Conference.
The only recent blips have come against Nashville, but everyone is losing to the Predators these days. Nashville leads the NHL with 104 points and clinched a playoff berth with a 4-2 win in Denver on Friday night.
That temporarily stopped Colorado’s streak.
The Avalanche (38-25-8) are playing well, led by Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon. The 22-year-old center scored his 36th goal on Friday and now has 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in the last 11 games.
Colorado’s players don’t feel the momentum is gone after Friday night’s loss.
“Obviously it’s disappointing and it (stinks) but we want to keep this thing going and we want to win every game we play in,” Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said Friday night. “It just seemed like we ran out of gas a little bit.”