The difference between satisfaction and displeasure is often in the subtlety of Mikko Rantanen’s tone after an Avalanche game. He typically has a measured calmness, regardless of his team’s result.
When he scores a hat trick to steal two points for Colorado, like he did last weekend in St. Louis, “in the moment he’s fired up about it, but then he’s nonchalant,” teammate Artturi Lehkonen told The Post. “Like, I feel like he doesn’t stay there (in that moment). He just starts focusing on the next one.”
Rantanen “stayed there” Thursday night, and not out of happiness.
After scoring his team-leading 20th goal — he’s the seventh NHL player to reach that mark this season — Rantanen was harsh judging his performance and his line’s performance. The Avalanche’s late comeback fell short in a 4-2 loss to Buffalo. It was the 15th time in franchise history (since moving to Denver in 1995) that the Avalanche outshot an opponent by 20 or more but lost by multiple goals.
“Defensively, our line, two goals against there. Defensive breakdowns,” Rantanen said. “When you get (down) 3-0, it’s hard to come back.”
On Friday at practice, he and linemate Valeri Nichushkin both smashed sticks over their legs after failed power play drills — a fitting expression in the midst of Colorado’s 0-for-17 stretch. “I think today the ice wasn’t very good. And they’re hungry to try and score, and we timed it today, so they had to work a little bit quicker,” coach Jared Bednar said. “Gives the penalty kill a slight advantage. … It’s kind of by design to push the pace of our power play a little bit.”
Rantanen’s reaction to the Buffalo loss and the next day’s practice epitomizes the state of the Avalanche (15-11-2) right now: winning in spite of injuries and deficiencies, but getting frustrated in spite of strengths such as Rantanen’s scoring.
The first defensive breakdown to which he’s referring Thursday was a blunder born of his own exhaustion. Stuck in the defensive zone as a long first shift of the game dragged on toward one minute, Rantanen fell asleep as Tage Thompson skated by him. The Buffalo star weaved around a defenseless Alexandar Georgiev for the opening goal 54 seconds in. Rantanen admitted he got tired, “and then your mind is not there.”
That was Colorado’s night in a nutshell. Rantanen was ticked off at Colorado’s sluggish start: “First period was not good,” he said solemnly. “Not good at all.”
He was ticked off at Buffalo’s third goal, which fried the home team’s building momentum: “I thought we were going pretty good there. Lot of chances, and then basically they get one breakdown. It was our fault, and they score right away.”
He was ticked off at the defensive errors and misjudgments that plagued his line all night: “Two of those (goals) at least, it’s pretty easy coverage there.”
Rantanen scored on a clean, powerful finish on the rush. That didn’t come up in the postgame conversation.
Status updates: Francouz, MacDermid
Kurtis MacDermid participated in a full-contact practice jersey for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury Nov. 12 against Carolina. Bednar was unsure whether MacDermid will be ready to play Saturday (7 p.m.) against the Predators. If he’s back, MacDermid could fit into the lineup as a defenseman or a forward, but it would require someone else to be sidelined as a healthy scratch.
Backup goalie Pavel Francouz missed the Avalanche’s game against Buffalo and practice Friday. He is out with an illness, and Bednar doesn’t have a timeframe for the netminder’s return.
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