The Colorado Avalanche were unable to extend their winning streak to three-game following their 4 -3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. The Avs started off with a Daniel Winnik shorthanded goal at 5:55 in the first period. But Nikolai Kulemin scored two goals in the last half of the first period, the second coming with only seconds left on the clock. The Avalanche had only three shots on net in the first period.
Tyler Bozak extended Toronto's lead to 3-1 with a goal at 9:37 in the second period, which Ryan O'Reilly countered with an Avalanche power play goal several minutes later. Phil Kessel added another goal for the Leafs three minutes into the third period. Matt Duchene scored his 26th goal of the season to draw Colorado closer, and Ryan O'Reilly had a chance in the final minutes to tie the game, but, as with most things for the Avalanche this season, came up short.
Brian Elliott made 23 saves on 26 shots, but left the game for roughly four minutes. Peter Budaj was in net for that time and allowed one goal on the only shot he faced. He got saddled with the loss, having been in net for the game-winning goal.
Mark Olver left the game after a hit to the head and did not return. Erik Johnson assisted on all three Avalanche goals.
The Avalanche (28-37-8, 64 points) head to Los Angeles for a Saturday afternoon contest with the Kings.
The Colorado Avalanche find themselves in strange water heading into tonight's matchup against the playoff-hungry Toronto Maple Leafs. The Avalanche have won two games in a row for the first time since January 18, when they defeated the Vancouver Canucks. Colorado only won one game the entire month of February.
They face a Toronto team that is on the cusp of the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference, only five points behind the Buffalo Sabres for the eighth and final spot. Toronto has had yet another uncertain season in a series of disappointments, having missed the playoffs in every season since the 2004 NHL lockout. But this proud franchise has won three of four games, giving their city hope of a miracle playoff run. Captain and defenseman Dion Phaneuf has led the charge, scoring eight points in the past 10 games. Rookie goalie James Reimer has been inconsistent in net, but has kept his team in most games this season since he became the full time starter at the end of December.
Colorado has an excellent shot at extending their winning streak to three games, something not seen since December. Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly have both been solid offensively, and Brian Elliott has been decent in net. Milan Hejduk --who scored the winning shootout goal against Columbus -- is one goal shy of his 20th for the season, which would give him a franchise record for consecutive 20-goal seasons.
Brian Elliott will start in net for Colorado. James Reimer will get the start for Toronto.