TED KULFAN

Kulfan: Avs beat Wings in reprisal of faded rivalry

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

This was a far cry from those can’t-miss Red Wings games against the Colorado Avalanche.

Fans would stay up late to watch these teams play back in the days when this was an epic rivalry.

It was the definition of can’t-miss hockey. You didn’t want to miss a moment.

Not anymore. Really, it hasn’t been for a long time, as the Avalanche have slipped out of contender status.

There’s no rivalry anymore. Just two teams hoping for better days in the future.

The near future continued to look grim for the Red Wings, who lost Wednesday 3-1, their sixth loss in the last seven (1-5-1).

Andreas Athanasiou scored the lone goal for the Red Wings (26-31-11).

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 3, Avalanche 1

Colorado scored twice in a 1:55 span early in the third period to break a 1-1 tie.

Former Michigan standout J.T. Compher scored his first NHL goal at 3:49 and Carl Soderberg made it 3-1 at 5:44, leading the Avalanche to a rare victory.

Jimmy Howard was superb throughout the evening, with 26 saves, stopped Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog on a third-period penalty shot, but was victimized by some loose third period defense.

The Red Wings conclude a quick, two-games-in-two-nights trip Thursday in Arizona.

But more than anything Wednesday was simply the stark contrast these days from 15-20 years ago when this was can’t-miss hockey between two elite organizations.

If you went to bed early for this one, or just bypassed it entirely, you’re excused.

Red Wings fans are well versed in what’s become of the team this season, with the 25-year playoff streak almost certainly coming to an end.

But for the Avalanche, this has been a season beyond forgetting.

Colorado has the worst record in the league (20-46-3), stands last in most of the major statistical categories, and has a roster that’s littered with former high-end draft picks and overpaid, underproducing veterans.

It’s an ugly mix. And not one that promises entertaining, winning hockey in the near future.

The Red Wings took an early 1-0 lead when Athanasiou scored his 16th goal on a breakaway at 5:09 of the first period.

Athanasiou took an outlet pass from Justin Abdelkader, saw an open lane down the middle of the ice, and beat goaltender Calvin Pickard (26 saves).

Howawrd kept the Red Wings ahead with a brilliant sliding save on Mark Barberio early in the second period on an Avalanche power play.

But Howard couldn’t do anything on Duchene’s goal, with which he ended an 11-game drought and scored his second goal in 26 games, his 17th of the season.

Duchene pounced on a loose puck near the crease and beat Howard, who had two bodies screening him.

In the third period, Colorado scored early and the Red Wings never really threatened after they fell behind.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com: @tkulfan