DENVER — One minute from salvaging a point, David Aebischer went Patrick Roy on his team.
The Colorado Avalanche goalie went behind his net to play the puck, saw it jump over his stick into the forbidden goalie zone, and then watched as Craig Conroy scored with 59 seconds left in the third period to give the Los Angeles Kings a 5-4 come-from-behind win Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center.
It was the second straight Wednesday
night that the Avs squandered a three-goal lead with Aebischer in net, and it’s getting a little frustrating.
“Usually, you should win those games,” Aebischer said. “Somehow right now we’re a little short. We just have to play a little bit better and do the little things.”
Like win games with three-goal leads. As they did against Nashville last week, the Avs looked like they were cruising to an easy home win. Two first-period goals by former King Ian Laperriere, Andrew Brunette’s first goal of the year and Joe Sakic’s power-play goal staked the Avs to a 4-1 lead with 13:25 left in the second period.
Not only did they not hold the lead, the Avs lost it before the second intermission when Sean Avery scored after a John-Michael Liles turnover to tie the game with 24 seconds left in the period.
“It was a great start, but it doesn’t mean squat right now,” said Laperriere, who scored his first two goals of the season in his 700th career game. “It would have been great in a win to talk about those two goals, but we didn’t get anything. It’s a bad feeling. I’d rather get those two points than those two goals.”
The Avs were guilty of playing conservatively after getting the lead. They had 18 shots through the first two periods, but they didn’t have one in the first half of the third period.
“Maybe we didn’t work as hard as those guys,” Laperriere said. “They came at us, and we just have to learn from that.”
Colorado will find the going a little rougher for the next week. Their next five games are against Northwest Division opponents — three against Vancouver and two against Edmonton. The Canucks sit atop the division with 11 points while the Avs are fourth with five points.
They could have had nine points heading into this weekend had they been able to close out Nashville and L.A.
“To do that, it’s to win those little battles,” Laperriere said. “If we don’t do that we won’t put any of these wins away. Aebi made great saves tonight, but those scoring chances we give them, no one can stop that. A guy in front of the net by himself at the end of the game like that — not too many goalies in this league will stop that. We just let two points get away there.”
Avs head coach Joel Quenneville juggled his lines a bit, putting rookies Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski with Sakic and dropping Brunette to the fourth line. It didn’t change their careless play.
“We’re still sloppy in our end, and that’s something right from the first period on we have to do better on,” said Sakic, who now has 1,408 career points. “We created a lot of our own mistakes, turnovers that they got all their chances from.”
The most painful was Conroy’s chance. The veteran did what hockey players are taught from early on — go to the front of the net. He followed the rule, and Alexander Frolov hit him with a perfect pass.
“All of a sudden he had it,” Conroy said of Frolov. “I don’t know if there was anyone around me, I just know he put a great pass on my stick. It was a pretty good feeling.”
Aebischer would disagree.