Game 81. Avs-Blue Jackets. Avs Last 81 Games, but Will Miss Playoffs in 2012

Posted: April 5, 2012 in Avs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Game Thoughts

For a game that had much more meaning than I would have thought 5 days ago, the Colorado Avalanche came out flat, and never held a lead against the worst team in the NHL.

Everything went right for the Avs tonight…outside of Pepsi Center. The Stars lost, the Kings grabbed an early lead, but Colorado could not find a way to beat Steve Mason and the worst NHL team this year. The Avs split the season series with the bottom dwellers, and ultimately that is why they are not going to the playoffs. After a five day break, and their season on the line, the Avs came out like it was November. Just an average game, so they gave an average effort.

Columbus got on the board a little over six minutes into the game, on a breakaway goal. Teams started to figure Varlamov out on breakaways as the season came to an end, but that is not the story. In the absolute biggest game of the year, the Avs simply cannot give up breakaways like they did. Unacceptable.

They fought back, and I thought they turned the motors on when David Jones tipped a McGinn pass, past Mason. They had things tied up, and it was still early. The momentum was on their side, and they were playing an awful team, but it didn’t matter.

Rick Nash found the net with two and a half minutes left in the first period to give the Jackets the lead. Varlamov thought he had the puck, but it squeezed past him and Nash was able to get the puck into the wide open net. Huge momentum killer. In games like this, the Avs have to bury the game early, the longer it stays close the more the Blue Jackets are going to want it, and that is why the Jackets won.

Erik Johnson drew a 4 minute, double minor penalty from a high stick, and the Avs quickly capitalized on the powerplay. Paul Stastny was able to lift a backhand over Mason’s left pad and into the net. The Avs still had a full 2 minute powerplay after the goal, but couldn’t find a way to take the lead. That was the game changer, the momentum killer, and it was all downhill from there.

Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Byrne took penalties 30 seconds apart that resulted in the game winning goal on the powerplay. Rick Nash beat Varlamov high glove before Varlamov could get from one post to the other to make the save. If the Avs would have killed off the 5-3, it really could have gotten them back into the game.

Columbus added another goal about 12 minutes into the period which put the nail in the coffin. I kept telling myself that if there was one team the Avs could come back on, it was the Jackets, but they had the door shut on them by Mason. The Avs didn’t have too many quality chances to begin with, not once was I telling myself they should have scored on a particular play, but any potential chances were stopped by Mason.

The Avs kept constant pressure on Columbus in the third, but just couldn’t score. They ended up pulling Varlamov with 4 minutes left in a desperation move that resulted in Cam Atkinson scoring an empty netter for his hat trick. In my mind, there were many individual accomplishments that players can hang their hats on this season, but as far as I’m concerned, but only positive outcome from a team standpoint is, it does not look like Washington will end up having a top 10 pick from the Avs in the next draft.

The last game of the Avs season will be played on Saturday against the Nashville Predators at Pepsi Center. The game starts at 7 p.m. Mountain time.

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