The Colorado Avalanche stepped into Nashville on Tuesday night and beat the then best team in the league (the Buffalo Sabres have since passed them, seriously) by a score of 3-2 in regulation. Colorado is now only three points back of the Predators.
Mikko Rantanen scored his 40th point of the season. Not only does he lead the league, but if he stops now, he’ll get Tom Wilson or Milan Lucic money!
After a back and forth play that carried the game through the first half of the period, it was Nashville that drew first blood as a Ryan Hartman pass took an unfortunate bounce off of Sam Girard’s skate and past Varlamov. The lucky deflection gave the Predators the first lead of the game
It only took two minutes for the Avalanche to pull even. A powerplay goal by (who else?) Nathan MacKinnon, set up by (who else?) Mikko Rantanen tied the game at one.
The Avs finished the period with only six shots, but went into the intermission tied thanks to some solid early play from Semyon Varlamov.
It didn’t take long for the Avalanche to put on the pressure in the second. Within the first minute, Nathan MacKinnon found himself all alone in the Preds zone, but Pekka Rinne was able to turn him away.
Two and a half minutes in, Gabriel Bourque deflected a point shot past Pekka Rinne, unfortunately the goal was (rightfully) called back because it was tipped with a high stick.
The Avs continued the pressure as they were able to dominate the first half of the period. The top line had a number of high-danger chances, but Rinne continued to prove when he’s the best in the league.
Colorado had so many chances that it was only a matter of time before they re-gained the lead. At 6:22 of the frame, Nathan MacKinnon scored his second of the game and 17th of the season to put the Avs ahead 2-1.
It didn’t take long for the Preds even things up. Less than three minutes after the MacKinnon goal, Kevin Fiala tipped home a perfect pass from Filip Forsberg.
After a good penalty kill - on which Rinne stopped Matt Calvert on a clean breakaway - the two teams exchanged a few chances. Miikka Salomäki would come the closest to breaking the tie as he hit the crossbar with under a minutes to go in the period.
Unfortunately J.T. Compher took a slashing penalty as the buzzer went, causing the Avs to start the third shorthanded.
The Avalanche were able to kill off the early penalty thanks to some tremendous play by Ian Cole.
They got a powerplay of their own shortly thereafter, and while the big guys couldn’t get it done, it was the Avs’ second PP unit that put the pressure on and eventually beat Rinne. Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher worked the give-and-go to perfection allowing Jost to rip home his fourth of the year, giving Colorado another one goal lead.
It was the Semyon Varlamov show the rest of the way. Aside from one great scoring chance by Calvert, the Predators dominated the last half of the period, but Varly stood tall — shutting to door to hold on to a 3-2 victory.
Finally. The win snaps the streak of 11 straight regular season losses to Nashville.
The Avalanche were outshot pretty badly (38-25), but the combination of great goaltending and utter dominance from their top line was enough to get the job done tonight.
Now it’s back home to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Pepsi Center tomorrow night. The Pens come in having done the Avs a huge favor beating Winnipeg 4-3 Tuesday night.
Damn these guys are good.