In a tale of two quests, the Colorado Avalanche to keep proving they are a legitimately competitive team and the Winnipeg Jets to keep pace as one of the best teams in the NHL, the Avalanche battled hard to come out on top in a 3-2 overtime victory.
After a scoreless first period, the Avalanche's top line exploded for two elite level goals. Both of which were simply where hard work meets skill and chemistry. Mikko Rantanen set up shop behind the net and Nathan MacKinnon finished off the play at 7:44 with a quick play with his smooth hands.
Just minutes later at MacKinnon returned the favor to Rantanen after completely undressing the Jets' defense and Mikko put it home at 11:31. That goal is worth watch repeated times just to marvel at how fast that play came together.
The Avalanche were cruising at that point until Semyon Varlamov curiously pulled himself from the game with under five minutes to go in the period. No obvious incident pointed to the trouble but the Avalanche announced he would not return with a lower body injury.
Jonathan Bernier entered the game just as a power play for the Jets was beginning but he stood tall in net and the Avalanche's penalty kill streak reached 35 consecutive kills.
The beginning of the third period would see the mighty kill streak snapped unfortunately when Blake Wheeler tipped the puck just 47 seconds into the period to cut the lead in half.
It looked like the Avalanche would escape for the night until Bernier misplayed the puck behind the net and Wheeler cashed in for his second goal with just 33 seconds left and the teams headed to overtime.
The teams traded chances back and forth until Rantanen chipped the puck forward to Erik Johnson to send him on a breakaway and he put the puck home in the net with just ten seconds remaining in the period. The goal gave the Avalanche their second overtime victory in a week and a record of 4-2 overall in the extra frame.
Another multi-point night for the top line, MacKinnon with two and Rantanen with three. At this point it's not even unusual to see that type of performance and MacKinnon stands currently with 48 points in 39 games. Rantanen is second on the team with 36 points. They are taking the next step and it is a treat to watch.
Recently recalled from San Antonio, AJ Greer didn't see a ton of ice time in just under seven minutes but made the most of his time with several nice plays, two shots on goal, three hits and second on the team with 60% Corsi For. Greer likely earned more of a look going forward with that performance.
Speaking of rookies, Sam Girard and Tyson Jost both saw the ice more in this game after head coach Jared Bednar praised them for their efforts in the previous contest. Girard saw a handful of overtime shifts and nearly 18 minutes overall. Jost was played more in a third line role and with 14 minutes is getting more responsibility. Steady progress for the Avalanche teenagers.
The Avalanche meet the Columbus Blue Jackets as their homestand continues at 7pm MT on Thursday, January 4th.