Jared Bednar described Devon Toews’ injury as minor, but a minor tweak can have a major impact on a single game.
With the steady defenseman from Colorado’s top pairing out, the Avalanche inserted Kurtis MacDermid to the lineup Friday night vs. the Seattle Kraken. He can be stationed as a forward as a defender, but his true role is enforcement – evidenced by his triumphant fight in the first period.
But when he needed to race one-on-one to a loose puck in the defensive zone, he got boxed out by Seattle’s Karson Kuhlman. The result was a go-ahead goal with 7:54 remaining in the third period – one that backup goalie Pavel Francouz probably should have saved – and a 3-2 home loss for the Avalanche.
Colorado’s early-season sluggishness continued. The Avs (2-2-1) dug a 2-0 hole for the consecutive game, and this time they couldn’t steal a point by extending the game to overtime. They were outshot 38-20 by Seattle.
With the Kraken playing the aggressor, Francouz had kept Colorado in the game most of the night. But the added irony to Kuhlman’s eventual game-winner was Seattle had just pulled the not-as-active goaltender, Philipp Grubauer, from the net with an apparent injury. His replacement, Martin Jones, protected the lead for the last eight minutes, undoing Bowen Byram’s short-handed, game-tying goal earlier in the period.
After back-to-back home losses, Colorado will depart on a six-game road trip starting Saturday in Las Vegas.
With Toews out, Byram was moved to the top defensive pairing alongside Cale Makar, making for a mega-offensive duo. But the Avalanche couldn’t score for the first half of the game.
What is the most promising a scoreless period can be for the Avs right now? They killed a penalty and created a number of scoring chances with their third line spearheaded by Alex Newhook. Newhook entered the night without a point in his first four games, moved down from the second line with winger Evan Rodrigues for a second consecutive matchup.
The second was a period of momentum changes. The Avalanche was hoping to replicate the marvelous shift its top line produced out of the first intermission two nights earlier. Instead, Newhook was sent to the box for holding, and Colorado’s penalty kill suffered the consequences within 22 seconds. With Josh Manson and Erik Johnson defending, Seattle’s Jaden Schwartz was left unmarked in the slot. A pass from behind the net set up an easy finish for him.
Then it took another 22 seconds for the Kraken to crash the crease and create another goal.
Trailing 2-0 at home for the second straight game, Colorado needed a spark. Francouz provided. MacDermid made what should have been a costly giveaway. But Francouz turned away the ensuing clean shot by Jared McCann, keeping the deficit manageable.
Less than a minute later, Bowen Byram assisted Rodrigues’ first goal for the Avalanche.
Then Andrew Cogliano drew a penalty.
Momentum had peaked.
After a quiet shift from the Avalanche’s first power play unit, the second group supplied ample pressure. But Grubauer denied Newhook’s second point blank chance of the night in the crease, and seconds after the power play ended, Manson struck the crossbar with a rocket from the blue line.
The second power play unit continued to be Colorado’s most relentless aggressor, but another two minutes of man advantage ended two seconds early: Byram had committed interference.
The Avs returned to the locker room without short a pivotal goal and short a man.
They were able to even the score while short-handed. But they couldn’t find another goal at even strength.