Gazette columnist Paul Klee's three observations from Colorado's 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators in Game 4 at Pepsi Center Wednesday:
1. The absence of defensemen Erik Johnson and Sam Girard was bound to hurt the Avalanche at some point. That point was the first period of Game 4. Seriously, if you get the time and are sitting in a padded room, check out Filip Forsberg's goal to kick off the scoring: coming down the left wing, the Preds star flicked the puck around Duncan Siemens, took a smart angle to to slide past Siemens and deked Jonathan Bernier to zip one into the net. Sorry, Avs fans. It was spectacular puck work. And Siemens, who's one of the fill-ins for Johnson and Girard, never had a chance against Forsberg, the Predators' postseason career scoring leader. Come back, Sam. Soon.
2. Hunting a silver lining? Well, these Predators have lost three straight games. Twice, actually — once in December, once in March. So it's possible for the Avs to return from a 3-1 series deficit and stun the hockey world. Since the Avs are a team that jumped from 48 to 95 points in a single season, you can't count them out. But beating the Preds in three straight games will be tougher than Pikes Peak without hydration. Nashville's a team that doesn't play well from behind. With a lead the Predators can hunker down, muck it up and lean on the NHL's best blue line (and goalie Pekka Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist for the fourth time) to wear down an opponent. Do the Avs have another hockey miracle in them? They need it.
3. Good morning, Mikko Rantanen. “The game is still the same. I think there is more physicality and more hits and more chippiness," the 22-year-old Avalanche winger told me early Wednesday about his first postseason. "Otherwise it’s just good hockey. I’ve been enjoying it. Hopefully we’ll have many more to come.” And the ones that follow will be more productive for Rants than this one. Less painful, too, after Rantanen caught the stick of Nathan MacKinnon in the face. Yes, Rantanen had three points in the first three games. But for whatever reason — and Rantanen told me that he's 100-percent healthy — the silky smooth forward hasn't been the same game-altering talent he was during the regular season. He just hasn't looked comfortable, and the Avalanche are wholly reliant on that top line for the bulk of their scoring. The Avs climbed back from a 3-0 deficit but couldn't swing the comeback victory.