The best team in the NHL played the worst team in the NHL Wednesday night and, just like David slew Goliath so many moons ago, just like the 1969 New York Jets and the 1985 Villanova Wildcats and. … no. There was no upset at the Pepsi Center between the Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals.

But, almost.

The Avs might have played their best period of the season in the third, getting a highlight-reel goal from Nathan MacKinnon and play from their power-play unit that looked like genuine NHL caliber. The Avs had the mighty Caps, no foolin’, really on their heels for much of the third. Alas, history will just record it all as just loss No. 53 on the season. The final was 5-3, with Washington needing an empty-netter to seal it shut.

MacKinnon, though, gave the fans on hand a moment to remember with his split-the-D, multi-deke, backhand beauty of a goal that made it a 4-3 game at 4:29 of the third. On the ensuing shift, the Avs drew a power play through sheer hard work and the Pepsi Center at that moment might have been the loudest it’s been all season.

The captain, Gabe Landeskog, appeared to have the game tied moments later, but the post behind goalie Philipp Grubauer saved him. The Avs applied strong pressure at times after that, but nothing went in. The second period was where this game was largely lost, as the Caps outshot Colorado 16-6 and extended a 2-1 lead to 4-1. Calvin Pickard was victimized by a couple of unlucky bounces on a couple of the goals, and made some top-notch saves to keep it from being a blowout entering the third.

There was good news earlier in the day for the Avs, as 2016 first-round pick Tyson Jost agreed to a three-year entry-level contract. The North Dakota freshman is expected to be at the Avs’ practice facility Thursday and, if all goes according to plan with his immigration paperwork, will be in the lineup Friday against St. Louis.

Avs coach Jared Bednar said the team plans to “throw him right into the fire” when the paperwork is settled. Bednar said Jost will play his natural position, center, with linemates to be determined.

MacKinnon took little solace from his goal, preferring to talk about a win instead. But he was upbeat about the news of Jost signing. The two have the same agent, Pat Brisson, and MacKinnon has been hugely impressed by what he’s seen of Jost to this point. MacKinnon said he texted some with Jost on Tuesday. Here is MacKinnon talking more about Jost here:

 

Bednar, who said he was happy with how his team didn’t quit, nonetheless bemoaned another mediocre-to-poor start to a game, along with some careless penalties.

In addition to MacKinnon, the Avs got goals from Mikko Rantanen and Matt Nieto. Just like they have been often of late, however, there was nothing on the score sheet from either Matt Duchene or Landeskog. A little more from the top guys like them, and David might have slew Goliath after all.

THREE STARS

  1. Evgeny Kuznetsov
  2. Nathan MacKinnon
  3. Kevin Shattenkirk

UP NEXT

St. Louis, Friday at the Pepsi Center

Adrian Dater

Adrian Dater is a staff writer with BSNDenver. He started his journalism career way, way back in 1988 as a proofreader with the Concord Monitor as a kid out of college (Keene State College), and has wended its way since with a 25-year stop at The Denver Post, 20 of which were spent as the beat writer of the Colorado Avalanche, from its inception in 1995. Adrian has also worked as a primary hockey writer with Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, The Hockey News, Versus.com and Bleacher Report. He is the author of seven sports books, including the best-selling "Blood Feud: Colorado Avalanche v. Detroit Red Wings, The Inside Story of Pro Sports' Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era" and "100 Things Avalanche Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die", which was published in October, 2016.

  • Blackboard Warrior

    That was an exciting game! It was so strange to see the Avalanche playing with something approaching intensity. Great to see Andrighetto and Compher really stepping up, and even better that I barely saw Beauchemin the entire game.