Cale Makar’s interference penalty draws questions, frustration from Avalanche


DENVER — Cale Makar stood at his locker, still sweaty from the game, and spoke for nearly two minutes, 30 seconds uninterrupted. Midway through the third period Wednesday against Vancouver, with the Avalanche on the power play trying to take the lead, the officials called Makar for interference. He was livid in the moment, barking at the referee.

“When you don’t really understand what’s going on, from my point of view, then how am I supposed to improve?” Makar said.

The situation started with Nathan MacKinnon bringing the puck up the ice. Makar slowed to a near stop at the blue line, wanting to avoid going offside. Vancouver’s Dakota Joshua, skating backward, then ran into him, prompting the penalty call. Makar has been called for interference in similar situations earlier in the season, and he also brought up a similar penalty he took against Vegas in the 2021 playoffs.

During a stoppage after he got out of the box Wednesday, Makar talked through the play further with an official.

“He said I stuck my ass out,” Makar said. “I had nowhere to go with (teammate J.T. Compher) there. It’s happened now two or three times this year. It’s tough. Whose ice is that? That’s the real question. … You have a guy skating backwards in the neutral zone at you, and if I go forward, I go in the O-zone for an offside. … I guess I can go back, but I’ll probably just run right into (Compher).”

During four-on-four play after the penalty, Vancouver’s Ethan Bear scored what would ultimately stand as the game-winning goal.

When asked about the interference call following Colorado’s 4-3 loss, coach Jared Bednar laid out his understanding of the rule in that situation.

“I think if you’re skating across the line, setting an intentional pick, moving into that player’s ice, it should be called interference,” the coach said. “I think when you get to the line and you’re stopped and you’re occupying ice, it’s up to the defending player to move around it.”

Bednar saw Makar as doing the latter and didn’t like the penalty call. He said the team “will have to get clarity on it again” from the league.

“(Makar) was fine. He and Compher were both stopped there,” the coach added. “You’ve got to be alert to it as a defender and you’ve got to try and move around it. … It seems pretty clear to me, but apparently not for the way things are going in the league, because one night it’s called, the next night it’s not.”

Said Makar: “Even with (the official’s) explanation, both sides just don’t understand what we’re looking for in terms of what to call. That’s where my head’s at.”

The star defenseman, who scored in the second period, said none of the referees had given him a warning during the game about where he was standing on power-play zone entries. He added he understands the difficulty of the situation for the officials, saying he knows it could have looked bad on the officials if Colorado had scored on the play.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I just think there has to be a line with what the refs are looking for, and I just don’t know if it’s there right now.”

Injuries continue

Forward Evan Rodrigues suffered a lower-body injury in the first period that kept him out the rest of the game.

While the Avalanche forward was flying up the ice on a rush, it appeared J.T. Miller’s right skate clipped his skate. He screamed while falling to the ice and skated gingerly to the bench. He headed immediately to the dressing room.

Losing Rodrigues for an extended period would be a blow to a Colorado club already plagued by injury. With Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin both out, he’s been one of the team’s only consistent secondary scoring options with six goals and nine points in 18 games.

“He’ll get evaluated tonight, tomorrow,” Bednar said.

Colorado’s bad breaks continued when Mikko Rantanen got whacked in the face by a Tyler Myers stick, giving the Avalanche a four-minute power play. He remained in the room until early in the third period, when he came back to the bench and eventually re-entered the game. His nose was bloodied and taped up after the game.

“I’m sure it’s not going to feel great tonight or tomorrow,” Bednar said. “Kudos to him for coming back and playing through it.”

Compher also dealt with a painful situation late in the second. He blocked a painful-looking shot and skated gingerly to the bench. He limped to the dressing room at period’s end but was back for the start of the third.


Artturi Lehkonen now has an eight-game point streak after assisting Rantanen’s first goal, and Makar has scored in three consecutive games. He ripped a slap shot past Spencer Martin to give Colorado a lead late in the second.

2021 first-rounder debuts

Oskar Olausson, the No. 28 pick in 2021, debuted for Colorado on Thursday, playing just over seven minutes. He earned his call-up after posting eight points in 16 games with the AHL Colorado Eagles.

Bednar didn’t appear to want to rely on him too much in a close game but said “he was OK.” He was set to play on the second line with Rodrigues and Alex Newhook, but the Rodrigues injury forced the coach to jumble lines.

“The intention was to get those guys playing and going a little bit together,” Bednar said.

Since he couldn’t because of injuries, Olausson didn’t get much of a chance to show off his skill set. Still, with his girlfriend in the stands, he made his debut, becoming only the 10th player from the 2021 draft class to appear in an NHL game.

“He can shoot the puck,” said Avalanche forward Jayson Megna, who is the Eagles captain when he’s in the AHL. “He’s gotten a lot better away from the puck. That’s probably one of the biggest things I’ve noticed since I first saw him last year. I like where his game is trending.”

(Photo of Cale Makar after a second-period goal Wednesday night: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)


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