Rapid Reaction: Avalanche 3, Blackhawks 2

DENVER, Colo. -- Here’s a quick look at how the Chicago Blackhawks lost to the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday.

How it happened: Hoping to stay in the No. 2 position in the Central Division, the Blackhawks were again unable to beat Semyon Varlamov and the Avalanche. Another stout performance from the Russian goalie was just enough to beat rookie Hawks goalie Antti Raanta, who played for the first time since Jan. 28. Only Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad got to Varlamov on this night, but it wasn’t enough. First, Kane scored another one of his straight-to-YouTube goals, this one midway through the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1. And later, Saad scored off a rebound with just more than two minutes left in the game to cut the lead to 3-2. The Avs, however, held on. Brad Malone, who was recalled from the AHL for Wednesday’s game, led it off for Colorado when he barreled down the left boards and put a near parallel goal on net with 1:36 left in the first period. And early in the second, Matt Duchene took another piece of Raanta’s confidence when he found the net from the right side of the circle to give the Avs the 2-0 lead. Down two players, Raanta gave up the dagger midway through the third period, when Ryan O'Reilly beat him on the power play to put the Avs ahead in commanding fashion at 3-1.

What it means: As far the short-term outlook, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville’s decision to start Raanta looks questionable. Hoping to give the Hawks a spark against the Avs, as well as rest Corey Crawford, Raanta looked uneasy early and never completely settled in, giving up three goals on 29 shots. But the real disappointment may have been the leading scoring team in the NHL; the Hawks again could not find the winning recipe to beat the Avs’ starting goalie. If the two squads should meet in the postseason, the Avs should have some confidence against the defending champs, winning four of their five meetings in the regular season.

Player of the game: Varlamov made 37 saves, giving him 168 saves on 175 shots against the Blackhawks this season. He has won all four of his starts against Chicago.

Stat of the game: The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 in power plays. There were a lot of chances, but every time they came up with nothing.

What’s next: After splitting the first two games of the season, the Hawks play the Nashville Predators on Friday in Chicago during the first of three remaining matchups.