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Avalanche wrap up home stand with 4-1 victory over Kings

Patrick Wiercioch and Blake Comeau come off the bench and make immediate contributions.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Winnipeg Jets Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche salvaged their home stand, beating the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 on a couple of timely goals from players who had spent more time on the bench of late than contributing on the ice. The victory advanced Colorado to 7-8-0 on the season heading into a three-game road trip.

The first period was marked by a number of penalties by both team, but especially the Kings, who took four penalties in the opening frame alone. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, the power play wasn’t up to snuff and both teams would head into the locker room without scoring a single goal. Ultimately, both teams would shoot the puck at even strength just 17 times combined in the period. Not a lot of action.

The Avalanche would mercifully break out of their scoring drought early in the second period when Patrick Wiercioch, who was just reinserted into the starting lineup tonight, caught the puck behind the circle in the Los Angeles zone and pinched in below the blue line. Remarkably, no one would cover him and he scored on an easy wraparound try on Kings goalie, Peter Budaj to put Colorado up 1-0.

Twenty-two seconds later, Mikko Rantanen would stop the puck along the boards in the Kings’ zone and fire a quick wrister at the net. Premier goal scorer Rene Bourque was standing in the high slot and redirected the shot past Budaj to put another quick goal on the board for his 5th on the year.

Though the Avalanche would play a strong second period overall, they still couldn’t resist letting up at the end of the frame. Tyson Barrie would get called for hooking on Deven Setoguchi with just 1:57 left and Dustin Brown would sneak one past Semyon Varlamov on the subsequent power play to draw the game to 2-1 before second buzzer.

Blake Comeau, who had also been riding the bench the past couple of games, decided he would make a contribution himself halfway through the third. After retrieving the puck along the corner boards, he skated into the high slot in the Kings’ zone and fired a wrist shot through traffic past Budaj to increase the Avalanche lead to 3-1. Was Comeau working through an injury? Perhaps, because he looked great tonight after resembling dog excrement through much of the early going.

Despite the Kings’ best efforts, Semyon Varlamov and the Avalanche defense would prove to be too much, keeping LA off the board for the remainder of the game. Varlamov would finish with 32 saves on 33 shots, raising his 2016-17 save percentage back within respectable levels.

Gabriel Landeskog would score his fourth goal on the year on an empty Kings net before the final horn sounded to make it 4-1. Cheapie or not, that’s another guy the Avalanche need to get going on the offensive end. Hopefully breaking through against a solid Kings defense will give this team some confidence when they hit the road this week.

Tidbits:

  • Nathan MacKinnon accounted for ten (yes, 10!) of Colorado’s shots on goals tonight. He’s scored just twice on 52 shots this season and that simply isn’t sustainable. Mac will have to score eventually.
  • Andreas Martinsen continues to be an excellent complimentary piece in the lineup, dropping Drew Doughty to the ice on a big hit and unselfishly assisting Landeskog on the empty net goal.
  • Multiple outlets are reporting that Matt Duchene has passed through the concussion protocol and is ready to practice tomorrow for Thursday’s game against Dallas.