The Colorado Avalanche got the win they needed tonight, as headed to South Florida and came away with a 7-3 victory despite being badly outshot. It was a stellar game by Semyon Varlamov, who stopped 39 of the 42 shots he faced.
Despite their recent offensive struggles, the Avs were able to score seven times -including two empty netters.
The win was accentuated by a tremendous highlight-reel goal by Nathan MacKinnon, who has turned into a superstar before our eyes this season.
The big headliner of the first period was a hit against the boards by Derek MacKenzie on Gabriel Landeskog right at the onset of the period.
Landy’s head went right into the boards, and he was very slow getting up. A very scary moment for Avalanche fans - but fortunately, he returned to the game in seemingly good health. In any case, both teams seemed pretty evenly matched--neither really getting any dangerous opportunities, nor holding the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods of time.
This all changed when Mike Matheson was called for slashing. The Avs took a bit to get going, but once they did things started looking hairy for the Panthers. Tyson Jost was looking especially good, and showed how the move to put him on the top power play unit was a good one. The Avs weren’t able to convert, but the momentum was still there - and before long, Rantanen put in a nice rebound shot from Mike Barberio.
The Avalanche started completely dominating the period, ending the first 20 minutes with several great opportunities.
The Panthers took another penalty on a delay of game call, and the power play rolled out again. They looked a lot like last time, starting slow but picking it up at the end. They again failed to score, and right after Tyson Barrie took a delay of game penalty. The Panthers had some good opportunities but the Avs were able to kill it off.
Colorado was looking to cruise into intermission, but unfortunately, that wouldn't happen. With 3 seconds left, Aaron Ekblad rocketed the puck into the net to tie it 1-1 on a frustrating poor line change. The Avalanche had nearly full control of the ice for most of the period, yet the score didn’t reflect that.
This period, like the first, started with both teams looking pretty even. However, this wouldn’t last, as Denis Malgin scored on an excellent breakaway chance. Shortly thereafter, the Panthers got another breakaway - but this time, Varlamov made a great stop.
The situation was beginning to look dire for Colorado, but MacKinnon decided to change the circumstances. On one of the most incredible plays this year in the entire NHL, MacKinnon somehow made it through a horde of players inside the blue line, faked out a Panther’s defender, and sniped it right above the glove of Reimer.
Seriously, watch it - because a play like this doesn’t happen often:
The momentum was officially switched, with Tyson Barrie taking a shot from the point that found the net on a Kerfoot tip not long after. The Avalanche continued to control play throughout the rest of the period, killing off a Barrie double minor for slashing and allowing only 3 shots. They’d then head into the final frame on the man advantage, poised to truly put things home.
The most baffling thing about this period was the beginning of it. Despite being shorthanded, Florida generated not one, not two, but three 2-on-1 opportunities. Thankfully Varlamov stopped those chances, but the Panthers kept on the pressure. Varly continually bailed out the Avs, and by mid-period they managed to drive play back into their control. A Matt Nieto feed back to Erik Johnson primed the veteran, skating out in his 400th game for Colorado, for an easy five-hole shot to put the Avs up 4-2.
They weren’t finished, though. JT Compher made one of the best plays of the game where he charged up past the blue line and dished a sweet pass to Wilson, who put it in the back of the net.
Compher with the dish, Wilson with the finish.#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/ngH9RsVVE9— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 10, 2017
At this point the game looked over. However, the Panthers had different ideas. They pulled their goalie with 6 minutes remaining and started pummeling Varly with shots, eventually putting one through. Jonathen Huberdeau got his 9th goal of the season, and the Panthers looked to get back in it at 5-3.
With momentum on their side, the Panthers kept the goaltender pulled.
Florida resumed the insane amount of pressure, but Comeau made a nice play getting a rebound and passing it to Nieto, who walked right in to put the biscuit in the basket.
The Panthers decided that one empty netter wasn’t enough, so they pulled the goalie again, which again resulted in Comeau making another nice play and subsequent pass to Soderberg, putting the Avs up 7-3.
- Nathan MacKinnon is currently sitting at 12th in the league in total points (!), tied with Alex Ovechkin (!!).
- JT Compher is really starting to come into his own, showing great speed and fantastic skill on his assist tonight, as well as looking really good on the PK unit.
- Speaking of the PK unit, the Avalanche killed off a total of 8:02 minutes shorthanded (the last penalty was two seconds before the end of the third period, so I guess that counts). They typically struggled on the road in this facet, yet looked pretty good tonight.
- The Avs had good scoring depth tonight - a positive, since the team needs more than just MacKinnon to score points.
- The Avalanche really needed this win, and they got it. Hopefully they get their confidence back and at the least finish out the 4 game road trip .500.
- On a sobering note, Erik Johnson left the game at the end of the third period with an undisclosed injury as of yet. Hopefully he is okay, as the Avs literally have no one to replace him.
The Avs continue their Eastern Conference road trip with back to back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals starting Monday night. It’s a quick turn around and fatigue is likely to set in, but hopefully, they can steal one of the two games before heading home.