Avalanche blows third-period lead to Canucks, Evan Rodrigues injured

At the Avalanche’s first practice after a loss to St. Louis last week, coach Jared Bednar responded to a question about potential injuries from that game by half-jokingly commenting that Colorado “made it through one.”

The luck was short-lived.

The Avalanche blew a third-period lead and lost 4-3 to Vancouver on Wednesday night, adding insult to injury after a prolonged stretch when lineups on the ice barely resembled Colorado’s championship-defending roster.

Ethan Bear scored the game-winner with exactly 8:00 remaining.

Meanwhile, bad injury luck continues to torment the Avs (11-6-1). On a day when defenseman Sam Girard returned from an injury that sidelined him for six games, Evan Rodrigues exited with a lower body injury and didn’t return after the first intermission.

Then Mikko Rantanen, who scored twice in the opening period, was high-sticked in the face during the second, forcing him to the locker room wincing in pain. He returned early in the third, much to the relief of Avalanche fans who came to Ball Arena expecting an easygoing Thanksgiving appetizer against the lackluster Canucks. Forward J.T. Compher also got banged up while blocking a shot on the penalty kill. He was back for the third.

Rantanen’s nose was taped up and still bleeding in the locker room after the game.

“I’m sure it’s not going to feel great tonight or tomorrow,” Bednar said. “But kudos to him for coming back and playing through it. It’s not a fun injury.”

The Rodrigues play is one that might present long-term consequences. As the second-line center was leading the rush, he appeared to trip on a defender’s extended stick. That wasn’t what really happened. A second earlier, Rodrigues’ right skate clipped against the left skate of Vancouver forward J.T. Miller, turning Rodrigues’ ankle and causing him to react in pain before any contact with a stick. He tumbled to the ice and eventually skated off gingerly. He immediately limped to the locker room and was deemed unavailable the rest of the night.

Bednar said he didn’t get a chance to talk to Rodrigues after the game, and he has no sense for the gravity of the injury. “He’ll get evaluated tomorrow,” Bednar said. “Tonight, tomorrow, we’ll figure it out.”

Compher replaced Rodrigues on the top power play unit and made a determined play while falling in front of the net, navigating the puck to Rantanen for his second goal of the game and 13th of the season.

The Avalanche’s league-leading power play scored again when Cale Makar hammered in a one-timer during a relentless 5-on-3. But a dark cloud loomed even over that goal. Rantanen was not on the bench at the time, leading the top unit to feature Compher and Alex Newhook. The second unit was even more bizarre: Jacob MacDonald, Martin Kaut and Dryden Hunt were all featured.

“You’re missing two guys off the first power play unit, things will get hairy on the second,” Bednar said.

Pavel Francouz, making his first start since a heroic 46-save effort in Carolina, struggled to stop the puck. He only faced 25 shots. Colorado put 36 on goal.

Compounding on the injury frustration, Vancouver scored the go-ahead goal 32 seconds after an interference call against Makar that left the defenseman furious with the referees. Canucks forward Dakota Joshua ran into Makar from behind while Makar was stationed at the blue line, waiting to enter the offensive zone on an Avalanche power play. It was Makar’s second penalty of the period.

Sheldon Dries had tied the game for Vancouver with 14:53 remaining, six seconds after the first of those penalties ended.

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