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The Avalanche power-play unit scrambled late in the second period Wednesday when a turnover in their defensive zone gifted the Minnesota Wild a short-handed goal.
The Colorado miscue personified a 6-2 loss at Ball Arena.
The Avs’ shots-on-goal advantage (31-25) didn’t pay dividends as starting goalie Philipp Grubauer’s brilliance streak in net also hit a minor setback. Colorado (9-6-1), suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season, will aim to rebound in games Friday and Saturday at the Arizona Coyotes.
On Wednesday night, the Wild (10-6-0) took an early lead midway through the first period by capitalizing on an Avalanche turnover. Forward Nazem Kadri sent an errant pass that led to a Wild odd-man rush. Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer stopped the first shot attempt, but Wild forward Mats Zuccarello collected the rebound, and snuck the puck over Grubauer’s right shoulder pad into the net.
The Avs trailed 1-0 and were outshot 11-9 to close the first period.
Colorado had ample opportunity to strike back early in the second with a two power-play chances within the opening 5 minutes. The Avs failed to capitalize on either opportunity — a continuation of the team’s PP issues in the Vegas series (0-for-9 over four games). But moments later, with both teams at full-strength, forward J.T. Compher scored the equalizer from the high slot, assisted on a drop-off from defenseman Sam Girard.
The one-goal tie didn’t last for long.
Minnesota scored twice within about three minutes, courtesy of forwards Zach Parise and Marcus Foligno, with the second goal being short-handed. The Wild took a 3-1 lead into the third period.
Colorado finally broke its power-play drought with 17 minutes to go when a Kadri wrister, assisted by Mikko Rantanen, found the back of the net. But it proved too little, and too late.
The Wild added three insurance goals, including one open-net, late in the third period to seal the victory.
Avs forward Brandon Saad was unavailable to play Wednesday night as he anticipated his wife giving birth, Bednar told reporters before the game. Forward Logan O’Connor entered the lineup in Saad’s absence. Bednar also decided to reunite the star-studded forward group of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen on his top line.
The Avs’ roster, by design, is especially flexible this season.
“We need to start building some chemistry on some lines, throughout our lineup, in order to get the production that we want,” Bednar said before the game. “I’m trying to be patient with some guys that maybe are struggling a little bit and try to put them with some complimentary players. We’re still playing around with the lineup. Just because it worked last year doesn’t mean it’s going to work this year.
“We’re getting some fluctuations in our game there, but all things are on the table.”