The Colorado Avalanche kicked off the 2018-19 season in style, and by style I mean an utter beating of the Minnesota Wild on the shot clock, and the goal clock. The Avs would go down early on a goal from Zach Parise, but goals from Carl Soderberg, and Nathan MacKinnon, followed by empty-net goals from Mikko Rantanen, and J.T. Compher gave the Avs the win in the end.
Semyon Varlamov didn’t have to be busy in front of a defensively sound Avs squad, but when he was asked to work, he stopped 19 of 20 and kept the Avs ahead for almost the entirety of the game.
By the end of the game, the Avs had put up 41 shots to the Wild’s 20, while out-attempting them a mind-boggling 51-34 at even-strength.
The Avalanche looked great early on in the game. Matt Nieto was given the first big opportunity to score, but he failed to get his shot up, and was ultimately stopped by Devan Dubnyk’s pad. Tyson Barrie would get another royal road chance, but he was stopped by the blocker of Dubnyk.
Despite the great start, Parise would give the Wild their first goal of the season on their first real good shift in the offensive zone. Assists go to Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter. The first line was the group that got caught for the goal against. Simply put, they looked a step too slow on every battle, including stopping Parise right in front of the net.
Sam Girard continued to be an outstanding offensive defenseman, who showed off his incredible edges when he performed a spin-o-rama on Parise at the offensive blueline to keep the puck in the zone.
In the midst of a battle in the corner of Colorado’s zone, Tyson Jost and Greg Pateryn each get called for a penalty as Jost tried to skate away. Jost with a “holding the stick” infraction, Pateryn off for hooking. Each team would get their chances on the ensuing 4-on-4, but nothing would come as a result.
Soderberg would get the Avalanche faithful to their feet with a beautiful toe-drag and snipe goal off the rush for the team’s first goal of the 2018-19 season. The big man did excellently to get the defenseman facing him off balance before whipping the puck to the top corner of the net, giving Dubnyk no chance.
With Matt Dumba in the box for a holding the stick penalty, the Avs got their first opportunity to run their two power play units on the ice. The first group with Mackinnon, and co. struggled to get anything going, but when the second unit jumped out, they were able to get a few chance. No goals, however.
The Avs dominated the first period, but were only able to come out of the first 20 minutes tied at ones. At even strength, Colorado dominated the Wild in shot attempts (17-11), shots (11-5), and scoring chances (8-7). The Wild did a good job to get in front of the net and try to bang in some rebounds, but Varlamov was solid in net in his season debut. The Avs also did a great job at making sure their shots were coming from the middle of the ice, and especially the slot.
Within the first minute of the second, the Avs got caught with too many men on the ice. Newbie Sheldon Dries was in the box to serve the penalty for his team as the Wild began a two-minute enslaught on the Colorado net. Varlamov had to make several great saves — along with a very helpful post — in order to keep the game tied.
The two teams would get another chance with some open ice as Ian Cole (interference) and Eric Staal (holding) went off for penalizing each other. MacKinnon would get a big chance on a breakaway, but Dubnyk stopped him from giving the Avs their first lead. Suter would later get called for slashing Gabriel Landeskog, who was on a breakaway of his own.
Nate MacKinnon gave the Avs their first lead of the season after an amazing pass from partner Rantanen. Ranty would get the play started with a powerful zone entry off the far wing, as he was doing so, MacKinnon turned on the jets and burst towards the front of the net. All Rantanen had to do was put the puck to the net, and MacKinnon did the rest. A great play all around.
Marcus Foligno fell hard into the boards as he as Barrie raced to the corner for the puck. It appeared as though Barrie’s skate touched Foligno’s foot, and “caused” him to fall very hard into the wall. It looked like a very soft call, but the Avs found themselves down a man nonetheless.
Apart from the MacKinnon goal, the second period was relatively quiet. I mean, that MacKinnon goal was pretty exciting, and on the whole, the Avs dominated the Wild, which is fun too. The Avs led in shot attempts (19-6), shots (12-1), and scoring chances (9-3) at even strength in that period. The second period performance was nothing short of amazing, I would say.
Right at the top of the period, Colin Wilson thought he had scored the 3-1 goal for the Avalanche after it appeared he baseball batted the puck into the net out of mid-air. Unfortunately, the referees (correctly) determined that the puck hit Wilson’s glove, not his stick, and the goal was called off. Like it or not, that was the correct call.
As is expected with any NHL team, the Avs allowed the Wild to step on the gas a little bit harder at the start of the third. Wile facing the new wave of attacks, the Avs turned to counter-attacking in order to find their offense during respites of the Wild attack. Varlamov had to be great in the third, despite not having much work in the first two periods, and he was. In the first 10 minutes of the third alone, he had to stop three great scoring chances, and he succeeded.
The second line of Wilson, Alex Kerfott, and Tyson Jost was exactly what the doctor ordered for this Avalanche team. In transition, they did a great job of maximizing their time with the puck, and getting it to the net for a chance. Those chances didn’t go in for them in this game, but if they keep playing the way they have in this game, those will start going in.
3-1 and 4-1
In a wild series of events, the Avs score the brace of this game on an empty net! The play all started with Nikita Zadorov pummeling Neiderreiter into the boards in the Avs zone. They followed each other, battling each other hard. There was some confusion on the broadcast as to whether there was a penalty, as Dubnyk went to the bench, but he just went for the extra attacker to try and tie the game.
Unfortunately for them, the Avs had taken possession of the puck, and Landeskog was able to feed Rantanen for the goal. There was a slight pause in the action as the play could potentially be offside, but it was too close to call and the goal stood.
As a result of the Wild losing the challenge of the offside call on the 3-1 goal, the Avs were given a power play at the end of the game. On said power play, with the Wild net empty once again, Compher put the puck home into the empty net as the final nail in the coffin.