NASHVILLE — After being the best team in the NHL at playing with the lead before Monday night, the Colorado Avalanche blew one in epic fashion.
The Nashville Predators scored twice in the final minute to beat the Avs, 4-3, at Bridgestone Arena. Filip Forsberg scored with 37.7 seconds left and the goalie pulled to tie the game, then Yakov Trenin scored with 21.6 seconds to set off a massive celebration and leave the Colorado players stunned.
“Our compete down to the final whistle just wasn’t quite there,” Avs defenseman Devon Toews said. “Six-on-five, we know our assignments. We’ve gone through it. Just that little desperation to finish it or get the puck out just wasn’t there.
“A few mistakes hurt us, a couple missed assignments. Sometimes you get away with those, and sometimes you don’t.”
Forsberg batted the puck out of the air after it popped up behind Avs goalie Alexandar Georgiev. The game-winner came after a mix-up between Cale Makar and Jack Johnson behind the Colorado net. Makar fell down, the puck squirted out in front of Georgiev and Trenin was able to punch it over the goal line amid the chaos.
The Avs had not lost a game this season where they held a lead at any point before Monday night. They came into the evening with a league-best plus-15 goal differential in third periods, but the Predators had the only two tallies in the final 20 minutes of this contest.
“Obviously (it’s) an unfortunate result when you play that hard and you’re in position to win the hockey game with a few minutes left,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We failed to get a few pucks out. We failed to block a couple of shots with the 6-on-5. They get one. It can happen.
“To give up the next one, that’s heartbreaking. We just made a mistake with it.”
Andrew Cogliano scored for the third straight game to put the Avalanche on the board first. Miles Wood took a penalty, but 18 seconds later Cogliano cleaned up the rebound of a shot from Valeri Nichushkin on a well-executed 3-on-3 rush with Makar.
It was Colorado’s fifth shorthanded goal of the season, which ties the Philadelphia Flyers for the league lead. The Avs have allowed nine while shorthanded, and their minus-four goal differential while the other team is on the man advantage is third-best in the NHL behind Dallas and Los Angeles.
After Colorado allowed a pair of goals in just more than four minutes of game action between the end of the first and beginning of the second, Toews leveled the score midway through the middle frame. The Avs’ top line paired with Makar and Toews is arguably the best five-man unit in the league, and that group had a couple of great shifts together.
The second one of the second period led with a goal. Nathan MacKinnon teed up Toews for a one-timer from the right circle, and Makar had the second assist.
It was a penalty-filled opening 40 minutes, but both power plays struggled until the Avs broke through at 13:33 of the second. Nichushkin tipped a Makar shot past Nashville goalie Juuse Saros, a play that has become the club’s bread-and-butter strategy with the man advantage in recent games.
Nichushkin now has a goal in four straight games — five total in that span. He has also become a huge problem for other teams in front of the opposing goalie. He officially has five goals this season that were tip-ins, which ties Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers for most in the NHL.
The Avalanche now has 13 power-play goals this season, and Makar has a point on 10 of them. Makar had three points for the Avalanche, and is now second to Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes among defensemen with 27 on the season.
It was his fifth three-point game of the season — including each of the past three — but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Nashville comeback.
“There was lots to like,” Bednar said. “But it’s the ending, right? That’s all I can think about it is the ending. We didn’t handle that very well.”
FOOTNOTES: Josh Manson returned to the lineup after missing the past three games with an upper-body injury. The guy who replaced him, recent trade addition Caleb Jones, did not come out. Manson replaced Samuel Girard instead, who Bednar said missed the game after leaving the team earlier in the day for personal reasons.