Seeking the sweet reprieve of home ice after a long east coast sojourn that took a heavy toll, the Avalanche instead returned to a Ball Arena crowd half occupied by giddy Bruins fans.
They had more reason to be boisterous anyway; Boston is still riding a historic start to the season, and Colorado is missing five of its top six forwards. Both showed in a 4-0 Avalanche loss Wednesday night.
The Bostonians were so convincing that when the Bruins scored in the third period, the Avalanche horn sounded signaling a home-team goal.
A ragtag team of Colorado call-ups put forth a commendable battle against the NHL’s best team — even escaping the first period in a scoreless tie — but the Bruins (21-3-1) held a double-digit shooting advantage and completed the season sweep two goals in the second and two more in the third.
“I thought we played hard,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “Good effort. Good start to the game. Just couldn’t sustain it.”
In the first game without top center Nathan MacKinnon (upper body), Colorado’s lineup included seven of 12 forwards who have either played in the AHL or been waived by an NHL club this season.
Cal Burke was the fourth player to make his NHL debut for the Avalanche (13-10-1) this season; Ben Meyers appeared in his first game since Oct. 17; and Charles Hudon was playing in his second NHL game since the beginning of the pandemic. He was on the Avalanche’s top line.
Cale Makar acknowledged before the game that Colorado will be relying on “a lot of young, lot of new faces. But it is what it is,” he said. “They’ve been working together well with the Eagles.”
Goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who struggled on the road trip with an .845 save percentage in three games, was perfect against 15 shots at first intermission. He made one especially impressive save by instinctively extending his right blocker to seal the post against a Brad Marchand rebound before Marchand even got the shot off.
That play more than any other resembled the Georgiev who established himself for the first month of the season with his ability to stay in favorable positions, never biting too much or straying too far.
But there wasn’t much he could do when David Pastrnak found a gap in the Avalanche defense to hammer home a David Krejci pass at 3:49 of the second period. Pastrnak finished the regular-season series against Colorado with three goals in two games. Six minutes later, Boston’s Taylor Hall was unmarked on a backside rush. Charlie Coyle navigated a pass around Sam Girard, serving it up on a platter for the wide-open Hall in the crease. Hall scored again later on a breakaway.
“Listen, if you’re quitting, you shouldn’t be in the league,” Bednar said when asked about whether he felt there was a moral victory in his team’s effort. “It’s a privilege to play in this league. … I’m going to expect — if this group stays the exact same moving forward for the next one game, two games, five games — I expect us to be better next game. Because we’re going to show (players) some stuff. They’re going to learn as a group what it takes to be able to play in this league. What it takes to be able to have success in this league.”
Avalanche fans didn’t get to witness the retaliatory theatrics they might have been anticipating after Charlie McAvoy’s body slam injured Artturi Lehkonen in Boston. Instead, Dryden Hunt had a triumphant but unrelated moment of combat. He leveled Pastrnak with a textbook check, but Tomas Nosek took exception, promptly slashed Hunt then dropped his gloves. Hunt put Nosek on the ice in a brief, one-sided fight.
The fight in Colorado’s backups was evident throughout the evening, but the result was as one-sided as expected.