The Colorado Avalanche made it two wins in a row Wednesday night, beating the Boston Bruins 6-3.
The Avalanche were looking to build on Sunday’s win in Edmonton, desperate to move past the five game losing streak that preceded the road win.
It was far from a guaranteed success. The Bruins brought a top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak to the Pepsi Center, ensuring that fans got to witness the two best top lines in the NHL as they faced off against each other — quite literally, as they were matched against each other most of the night.
With Semyon Varlomov in net for the Avalanche and Jaroslav Halak between the pipes for the Bruins, though, things got ugly quickly.
As expected, both teams sent their top lines out for a good portion of the opening period, hoping to jump to an early lead. And it nearly worked for the road team; the Bruins had some good chances, hitting the post about 3 times during the period.
It was the Avalanche’s top line that struck first, though. After a little bit of a possession battle below the goal line, Mikko Rantanen came up with the puck and made a sweet backhand pass into the slot to Landeskog. The captain had time to take a peek, and he fired it top shelf to put the Avs on the board midway through the period.
That goal didn’t feel like it slowed down the Bruins, though. They kept pushing, and David Backes drew a penalty from Mark Barberio to put the B’s on the power play less than five minutes later.
The Avs managed to kill off most of the two minutes, but David Krejci made a terrific slap-pass to the front with just seven seconds left on the kill. Backes and Pastrnak were waiting in the slot, and both players managed to get a tip on the puck, leaving no real chance for Varlamov to stop it.
The period seemed set to end tied at one apiece, but then MacKinnon made an uncharacteristic mental error. A misfired pass to the point slipped past Samuel Girard and into the neutral zone, where Jake DeBrusk had gone back to pick up his stick. Debrusk made a quick breakaway and slipped a second one past Varlamov, putting the Avalanche down 2-1 heading into intermission.
The Bruins took some of that late first period momentum and carried it with them into the second, despite a need for Colorado to strike again. Hard work by the B’s drew another call just over a minute into the period — and similar to the first power play, the Avalanche fell just short of killing off the whole two minutes. With a loaded power play unit made up of Boston’s top line and Jake DeBrusk, Pastrnak managed to find DeBrusk up near the net for a tip-in to get his second of the game.
The third Boston goal seemed to wake the Avalanche up, though, and the top line of MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog managed to put the pressure on. They kept the puck in the offensive zone for a large chunk of the period, and a power play opportunity of their own netted an ugly goal against Jaroslav Halak for the team’s second of the game.
The teams saw Patrice Bergeron and Mikko Rantanen take offsetting penalties during the last minute of the period, but nothing came of it early in the 4 on 4 for either team — and they hit the second intermission with Boston once again just up by one.
Nothing came of the remainder of the 4 on 4 to start the period, but Matt Calvert would tie it up not long after both teams returned to even strength when he managed to score on a rebound 2:11 into the third. The shot bounced off a back checking Steven Kampfer, and found its way in to bring the score to 3-3.
From there, Colorado left Boston in the dust.
Midway through the final period, Rantanen picked up the puck in the defensive zone after a failed one on one rush by the Bruins. He managed to turn the puck back up the ice, moving around Bergeron and Marchand and creating a three on two. A great pass under the defenseman’s stick to MacKinnon gave the 2018 Hart finalist a clear shot to put the team ahead, and before Boston knew it they were down 4-3.
The Avalanche did a great job for the rest of the period keeping up the pressure and not going into a defensive shell. When David Krejci took a penalty in the neutral zone to avoid giving up another odd man rush, Colorado’s second power play unit took over. Alexander Kerfoot worked hard on the boards to get the puck out to the point for Girard, whose shot was deflected past Halak before stopping just shy of the net. Tyson Jost was the only one who saw it sitting on the goal line, and he managed to poke it in for the insurance marker.
Desperate to get back into the game, Boston pulled Halak with four minutes to go — and although they tossed out their top unit, weren’t able to get anything done. A final penalty for Bergeron gave the Avalanche a chance for a successful 3/3 conversion on the man advantage, and the Avs win 6-3.
- Both the Avalanche and the Bruins showed off their clearly incredible top line talent. There will be a time to argue back and forth about which line is better, but this was a game to simply sit back and appreciate a really good offensive show. There was no denying the talent on the ice at the Pepsi Center, and it was fun to watch.
- The Avalanche’s power play put away three goals, with special attention to the second unit’s ability to net two of those three. The first goal was impressive, with the team converting on a critical power play at a critical time, and for them to capitalize and give the Avs a two goal cushion was massive. Going forward, the group of Kamenev, Girard, Kerfoot, Jost and Soderberg could be fun to watch, to see if they can develop some more chemistry.
- Bruins defender Zdeno Chara left the game with an injury in the second period, which served as a death blow to the already-banged up Boston blue line. He may be in his 40’s and slower than he used to be, but there’s no denying that Chara’s exit made life harder for the Bruins on the back end.
- Semyon Varlomov played a great game and certainly out-dueled Jaroslav Halak. The goals were tip in front, breakaway, and tip in front. I’m certainly not going to blame him for those. He came up big with a couple saves with under 4 minutes left and the Halak pulled.
The Avalanche will welcome the defending champion Washington Capitals into Pepsi Center on Friday night and look to add to their back to back wins.