Despite giving up the first goal of the game, the Colorado Avalanche battled back against a red-hot Phoenix Coyotes, taking the game into overtime before falling to the visiting club 3-2 at Pepsi Center on Monday night.

Starting the game on time was the morning sermon from Head Coach Joe Sacco, as Colorado – after a first period tally by Shane Doan – has now given up the first goal in nine of 11 games so far on the season. The focus was also on not getting down and playing “catch up” hockey.

“It’s important. I say this all the time: ‘you always want to start on time’. You always want to make sure guys are ready and you start on time. You want to get off to a good start in this league,” said Sacco after the morning skate. “It’s tough to play catchup hockey in this league but, having said that, you’re not always going to come out with the lead early and, if you don’t, you got to stick with it.”

The Avalanche responded to the early deficit with two goals of their own in the next frame. Hard work from bottom-six center Mark Olver finally paid off when he blasted a knuckle puck off of Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith’s glove and into the net.

Three minutes later, Matt Duchene caught a breakaway outlet pass from P.A. Parenteau. Duchene skated down, faked a shot with some leg flair, and slid the puck under Smith as he went to stack the pads.

Phoenix wasn’t content to watch the game get away from them though, and they got the equalizer late in the third when Oliver Ekman-Larsson beat Avalanche keeper Semyon Varlamov from wide, outside of the face off circle with a hard angle shot.

Colorado’s failure to capitalize on six power play chances caught up with them in the end, including a four-on-three chance to start bonus hockey.

“Certainly we have to bury our opportunity on the power play there at the end, no question. I mean, that’s a situation where you have to end the game right there but, we had chances,” said Sacco. “We played well, overall. It just is frustrating right now not to get the extra point right now, tonight.”

After failing to put the pedal to the metal, Colorado would see victory slip away from them as an errant pass from Tyson Barrie to Greg Zanon, and then back, careened off of an official’s skate to a lucky Kyle Chipchura. Chipchura fed the gift to a wide open Doan, who rifled it past Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov for the win.

“Obviously, it’s hard to remember when you win that one. It’s usually that you always remember when that happens against you,” said Doan after the game. “We understand that that’s a bounce, and we’ve had a couple bounces go against us this year. You try to make as much as you can when you get them.”

“I didn’t know until we got in here that someone said it went off a ref’s skate.”
Luck is always part of the game and, until then, it seemed that Varlamov and his magical goal posts were the only ones getting some help.

“It’s a fortunate bounce, for them, unfortunate bounce for us,” said Sacco. “Like I said though, if we put it away on the power play, we’re not sitting here talking about that.”

“It’s a bit frustrating. It’s just unlucky. It’s a bad time of the game for that to happen. I passed it over to Zanon, my partner there, and he just tried to put it up the wall to our winger on the wall and it just bounced off the ref’s skate. Popped out front,” said rookie defenseman Tyson Barrie. “It happens throughout the game. It’s just tough that, at a critical time like that, for a game as good as that, where both teams played so well, for it to end like that. What do you say?”

The bad bounce highlighted the larger issue of Colorado not capitalizing on five power play chances.

“We got to score there [on the four-on-three], I think. Anytime you get a chance to put a team away. Even five-on-four in regulation there, I think we had some chances and then, especially four-on-three in OT,” said Barrie. “You got to really be able to drive the dagger into their heart and put them away but we didn’t do that.”

Expect the Avalanche to continue working on special teams this week, after a day off tomorrow, before the club faces the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.

“It’s just a little bit of a work in progress right now and we’ll get it fixed,” said Sacco.

Defenseman Erik Johnson left the game with an undisclosed injury. There is no update on his condition. Forward John Mitchell was out of the lineup with the flu.

What do you think? Like the effort but not the outcome?