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Colorado Avalanche Postgame: Matt Nieto’s hat trick helps end the losing streak

The Avalanche snap their losing streak with an impressive 5-3 win against the Dallas Stars

NHL: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche came into Tuesday night's game well rested but having lost their past three games. The streak ended thanks in large part to the first career hat trick for Matt Nieto - who likely only got into the lineup because of injuries. The Avs looked much better than they had in their last few games, but were still outshot 37-33 and likely wouldn't have won without some incredible play by Semyon Varlamov.

The Avs top line looked badly outmatched by the Stars top guys, but luckily the rest of the team did enough for the win. Erik Johnson looked great - especially after being paired with Anton Lindholm halfway through the game.

This game was an all-around team win and it was great to see the Avs get things done, even when the top line doesn’t produce at either end.

Recap

After a slow start to the first period, things picked up when Jamie Benn scored after keeping the puck in the Avs zone on a lucky bounce. Benn lost his man and was able to snap one past Varlamov who was screened by his own defender.

Luckily the Avs were able to bounce back quickly as Matt Nieto scored to tie the game while the teams were playing 4 on 4. The play was a great individual effort from Gabriel Landeskog and Nieto was able to follow up to put in the rebound.

Late in the period, the Avs showed some great team play as they were able to kill off a 4-minute penalty to Alex Kerfoot, ensuring that the game stayed tied going into the intermission.

Dallas was forced to start the second period with only five defensemen as Stephen Johns didn’t return to the game after taking a shoulder to the head from Matt Duchene midway through the first period.

The Avs took the lead early in the second as Ben Bishop got caught behind the net, losing the puck to a forechecking Blake Comeau. Bishop was able to scramble back to rob Carl Soderberg, but Matt Nieto was there to put in the rebound for his second of the night.

Only a minute later, Brett Ritchie scored on a nice feed from Tyler Seguin. The goal was a bit of a defensive breakdown as Nikita Zadorov left Ritchie standing all alone at the side of the crease.

The wild period kept rolling as the Avs took the lead right back with Gabriel Landeskog scoring his third of the season to make it 3-2 with only 4 minutes gone in the second. Finally the hard forecheck pays off for the Duchene-Yakupov-Landeskog that had been flying all night.

Things got interesting with 13 minutes left in the second when Ben Bishop disappeared to the visitor’s dressing room leaving the Stars in the hands of Kari Lehtonen. Luckily for the stars, things calmed down for most of the period, that is until Mark Barberio buried a rocket of a point shot with only 10 seconds left in the period. The Avs caught a lucky bounce after Tyson Barrie shot the puck wide and the ricochet bounced right out to Barberio for his first of the season.

Thanks in large part to Semyon Varlamov, the Avs went into the second intermission up 4-2.

The late goal a period earlier didn't help the Avalanche carry momentum into the third. The Stars were all over them for the first half of the period, luckily Varly was outstanding as usual. THe Avs netminder did everything he could to hold the two-goal lead, but with just under ten minutes remaining, Jamie Benn fired a cannon of a shot that beat Varly to make it 4-3. The goal was Benn’s second of the game and 6th of the season.

Three things happened for the remainder of the game, the Avs iced the puck, Varly stood on his head and Matt Nieto scored an empty netter to give him a hat trick on the night. The Avs were outshot 14-7 in the third period but Varlamov stood tall helping to solidify another victory to push the record to 5-4 on the season.

Observations

  • Erik Johnson looks like a man who knows he has to carry the load for the Avalanche blueline - almost to a fault. He looks great out there on just about every shift but every now and then you see him try to do a little too much with the puck.
  • Alex Kerfoot looks like a guy that has the skill to be a high-end professional hockey player, he just needs to learn how to harness that skill for the NHL.
  • For someone that is supposed to be more of a defensive defender, Nikita Zadorov loses his man in his own zone far too often.
  • Matt Nieto looked like a changed man. He was great and it was nice to see him cap off the hat trick with the empty net goal.
  • The Avs lead the league with 6 empty net goals so far this season.
  • With the win, Avs improved to 3-1 at home on the season.
  • Matt Duchene is flying - that is all.

Upcoming

The Avalanche have another few days off before they head into a back to back on Friday and Saturday at Vegas and then back home against the Blackhawks.