LOS ANGELES — The Colorado Avalanche have been the NHL’s most-dominant team in the third period for much of this season, but this was a different challenge.
The Avalanche were playing for the third time in four nights Sunday, and the slightly earlier start time meant even less of a recovery in the back-to-back situation. Meanwhile, the Kings, one of the hottest teams in the league (11-2-2 in their previous 15 games), hadn’t played since Wednesday.
That showed up in the final period. The Avalanche ran out of gas in a 4-1 loss at Crypto.com Arena, a disappointing end to a winless road trip (0-1-2).
“We kind of got served a pizza here,” Avs defenseman Josh Manson said, alluding to a hockey slang term usually reserved for a bad turnover on the ice. “Late last night, back-to-back going into a 5 o’clock game. I’ve never seen that before. They’re coming off two days of rest. It’s in their rink. That’s a tough game.
“We had them 1-0, 1-1 in the second period. Towards the end of the third, it just kind of fell apart.”
Los Angeles had 15 of the first 17 shots in the third period, leaning on the Avs before they finally broke. Quinton Byfield finished a beautiful four-player passing sequence at 13:26 of the third. Trevor Moore roofed a shot from in tight 56 seconds later.
The Avs went from hanging on by a thread to their first game without at least a point in seven contests.
“You could tell which team was the rested team in the third period,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “They started putting the heat on us, making it tougher to move the puck up the ice. They kind of took the game over there.”
The Avs were without Cale Makar, who missed a game for the first time this season. He’s been banged up on multiple occasions, but Makar missed the final 2:57 of regulation and all of overtime Saturday night in Anaheim. After the game, Avs coach Jared Bednar said he was “dealing with something” and wasn’t available.
Bednar said before the game Sunday that Makar was out against the Kings, but he didn’t know about a timeline beyond that. It’s a lower-body injury. He’s been arguably the best defenseman in the league in the first quarter of the season, and there’s a case for him as the best overall player as well.
Makar won the Norris Trophy two years ago, but missing 22 games played a big role in him not collecting the award again.
The Avs looked like a team that had played the previous night in the first few minutes of this contest, but after a near-goal from the Kings’ Philip Danult, Colorado used a defense-first approach to grab the lead. Manson had the lone goal of the period, his first of the season in his first game skating on the club’s top defense pairing in place of the injured Makar. It came on a tic-tac-toe passing play, with Nathan MacKinnon igniting a rush before finding Miko Rantanen for a touch-pass to a trailing Manson.
Colorado nearly made it a two-goal lead in the second period when Valeri Nichushkin set up Rantanen for a near-certain goal, but Kings defenseman Drew Doughty made one of the biggest saves of the game. Byfield leveled the score with a tip-in tally at 9:03 of the second. MacKinnon wasn’t happy with how he was defended at the Los Angeles end, and then just missed being able to disrupt a shot-pass from Mikey Anderson as a trailer during the Kings’ ensuing rush.
“It was just a couple of minutes there,” Avs defenseman Jack Johnson said. “That’s all it was. When you’re playing in a 2-1 type of game, it’s just one missed coverage here or the small things that make a difference in a tight game. I don’t think either team was giving up much the whole game. It was just a bad couple of minutes for us.”
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