Just one week ago, the Colorado Avalanche took two points from the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road in a 2-1 victory.
Tuesday night, they did so again. The rematch in Denver went 4-2 for the home team, which sweeps the season-series against the Penguins for the Avalanche - and concludes their eight consecutive games against the Eastern Conference.
The Avs and Penguins opened the game with a lot of energy, and traded chances until Tyson Barrie wired home a wrist shot to give the Avs the lead 5:01 into the first period. The Penguins would respond shortly after from Chad Ruhwedel blast off of a face off at 10:39.
In the second period, Barrie would strike again at 5:56, with a big shot from the point on the power play. JT Compher finally found the back of the net at 18:20 with a nifty baseball swing move. That goal was especially satisfying after he had one waived off earlier due to goaltender interference, especially given how many times he missed converting on many opportunities over the last month.
Right at the start of the third period, Evgeni Malkin cut the lead to one with a great shot at a sharp angle. The Avalanche showed great poise and didn't panic, as they controlled 60% of the shots in the third period and 53% overall after a too-loose-for-their-liking first period. They would ultimately end up outshooting the Penguins 37-32. Mikko Rantanen added an empty net goal at 18:27 to seal the victory for the Avalanche.
This was a good complete team win, with seven players hitting the scoresheet and everyone contributing to lock the game down with the one goal lead. The new line of Compher between Colin Wilson and Sven Andrighetto seems to have found some promise, which would give the Avalanche a sorely needed third line that can chip in a couple points. The fourth line still consists of mostly spare parts without a fit elsewhere, but the team is still moving in the right direction with finding a third line that can sustain some time together.
In game one of life without Erik Johnson, results were positive - and perhaps can give the coaching staff some confidence to not lean on Johnson as heavily when he returns. As we explored prior to this game which defensive pairings would be ideal for the Avalanche, this one game sample yielded mixed results. The Nemeth-Barrie pairing rebounded to a 51% after a tough start. The analytics pointed to a strong pairing between Zadorov-Barberio and they showed up at 78% in this contest. That left Sam Girard with Anton Lindholm, which did not go as well at 35%. Girard was at 50% without Lindholm so perhaps reworking him into a different pair might be helpful.
A rare two day break at this stage of the season and then play resumes on Thursday evening at 8:30pm MT against the LA Kings.