There was grim determination in the locker room after the Avalanche came close to a dramatic comeback, scoring twice and elevating their play significantly in the third period of a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.
There’s no more room for error. The Avalanche must win out against the Predators in order to extend their season, starting Friday night at Bridgestone Arena. The last time Colorado won there was March 28, 2016.
“No matter what, we have to win one in their building,” defenseman Mark Barberio said. “No better time than the next one.”
They’ll have to do it in front of goaltender Andrew Hammond, 30, who was picked up in a three-team trade in November that sent Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators. Jonathan Bernier, a backup himself, suffered a lower-body injury during the second period Wednesday and has been ruled out.
The Avalanche need Hammond to recapture the magic of his 2014-15 rookie season, before injuries derailed his career.
Well removed from a playoff spot, Hammond came out of relative obscurity and went on a late-season 20-1-2 run, taking Ottawa to the postseason and earning the nickname “The Hamburglar.” He made his only two postseason starts that year, both losses.
He stopped all eight shots he faced after relieving Bernier at the start of the third period.
The team has already been getting by without starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov and top defenseman Erik Johnson, who were ruled out of the series, and teenage standout defenseman Sam Girard, who hasn’t played since Game 1 and remains day-to-day.
The Avalanche were pushed to the brink of elimination after a poor start to Game 4. Two penalties in the first minute and a half set the tone and though the kill was encouraging, the Predators steadily built up their lead.
“Everything in the first two periods for me was a little too slow, a little too deliberate,” coach Jared Bednar said afterward.
“We’ve got to go on the hunt. … Keep it simple, play our game.”
The top seed in the West will want to finish things up neatly in front of its fans, in what has become a hostile arena. If the Avalanche can extend Wednesday night’s third period, they can push the series back to Denver.
Barberio shrugged off the notion of momentum carrying over.
“I think every game has its own story,” he said.