The Colorado Avalanche nearly gave it away at the end, but a clutch two-goal game from Gabriel Landeskog saved the Avs from a third period collapse against the Dallas Stars, and gave them a 6-4 win on Saturday night. Linemate Mikko Rantanen had himself a three-point night (2g, 1a), extending his 13-game point streak to 14. He now has 15 goals and 41 assists for 56 points in only 33 games.
Special teams was a massive component of this game. The Stars gave their opponents seven power play opportunities in the game, and the Avs scored three of their six goals with the man-advantage. On the other side, Colorado gave up a late power play goal to Tyler Seguin to make the score 4-3 at the time, but that was all they would allow on only three penalty calls.
On the coaches challenges. The Avalanche had a dominant start to the game; they out-shot the Stars 20-9 in the first period. They scored five goals, but the Stars were saved by the coaches challenge on two of them, giving the Avs “only” a three-goal lead heading into the second. I would say both were fairly weak calls, but I understand the idea that if you get in the goalie’s way and move them or their equipment, that’s against the rules. The referees have been mostly consistent with that rule, and they were consistent in this game.
Former Avalanche forward Blake Comeau tripped up Tyson Barrie in the neutral zone and got the puck as a result for a breakaway. He was immediately (and rightfully) called for interference and the Avs power play converted almost right away. Landeskog was hanging at the right faceoff dot, looking at all his options. As he carefully stepped forward, he waited, waited, waited, and sniped short-side top corner on Anton Khudobin to open the scoring. It was a perfect shot that fooled everyone on the ice for his 20th goal of the season. He only had 25 all of last year.
Matt Nieto created this goal with his impressively resilliant forecheck. He hounded the Stars defense deep into their zone and caused a turnover at the perfect moment. He pounced on the puck and fed Matt Calvert with a pass as he was standing all alone in the slot. Calvert let loose a nasty deke and potted home the team’s second goal of the game in less than nine minutes. The goal was also Calvert’s 10th point of the season. Linemate Nieto shares his stat-line of four goals and six assists for 10 points, which is a nice touch.
The Avs were pouring it on at this point. After a quick zone entry by the fourth line, Colin Wilson got himself a clean shot at the net. Unfortunately, he broke his stick on the shot. However, it turned into a good thing because Khudobin flubbed save and the puck conveniently bounced off his stick and into the net. The Stars challenged for goalie interference and won, taking the goal back. Gavin Bayreuther and A.J. Greer were battling in front of the net, and it was deemed that Greer pushed at Khudobin’s pad and glove at the time of the save.
Again! Big ol Carl Soderberg was being a menace in front of the net, and found himself a loose rebound from a shot by Sven Andrighetto and put into the back of the net. Unfortunately again, it was deemed after a coaches challenge that he had his butt too far up into Khudobin’s face, causing him unable to attempt a save. Whatever.
The Avalanche finally got that third goal of the period when Rantanen when he wired home a onetimer from wingman Nathan MacKinnon. The goal was so close to being reviewed again because MacKinnon had to save the puck from leaving the zone second before driving to the net and feeding Rantanen for the goal.
I feel like Jim Montgomery wanted to pull Khudobin after one of the five goals against, but he didn’t get a chance to with all the coaches challenges. Instead, he casually let Ben Bishop step into the Dallas net to start the second period.
It was a tame first half of the period, but the Avalanche once again made a mistake while on a power play. MacKinnon got caught flat-footed and out of position near the benches and caused a 2-on-1 for the Stars going the other way. With only Sam Girard back, Esa Lindell scored five-hole on Semyon Varlamov with a sweet move.
Seguin took charge of a shift and brought his team back within one all on his own. Girard and Varlamov got tangled with each other in front of the net. Not exactly sure what Girard was doing there, to be honestm but all of a sudden the Stars were back in the game.
Once again, it was the power play that eased the pressure for the Avs. MacKinnon made up for his earlier giveaway by giving Rantanen a great pass to open him up for a snipe from the half wall for his second power play goal of the game.
The Avs were a cool 3/5 on power plays during the first two periods. They accrued 10 shots in those 10ish minutes on the ice, which isn’t bad at all. However, at even strength, the Stars began running the Avs’ show. The shot lead the Avs had created in the first was gone by the second, and Dallas kept up the groove into the third period.
Varly stood on his head in the early third. He faced a pair of big scrambles for the puck in front of his net and then stopped a goal-of-the-year candidate with a beautiful glove save.
And then something scary happened. Julius Honka hit J.T. Compher hard into the boards, with a lot of the hit being directed at his head and neck. Compher went down and needed the team trainer to help him get back to the bench. Looking at the video, Honka had his elbow up and it definitely collided with Compher’s head. The rest of his body was pushed into the boards with a classic board. Somehow there was no call on the play.
Later in the period, Compher would return. I’m not sure how I felt about him returning after such a scary incident. Wouldn’t it be safer to trust the team with locking down the win and instead take care of his most important organ? Is the brain an organ? I don’t know, haha. Give me know your thoughts on the hit and the brain’s organess in the comments, please!
The Avs started to crawl into a shell throughout the third, and it allowed the Stars to really apply the pressure. With Soderberg in the box for high-sticking Bishop after a whistle during a testy time in the game, Seguin wired a one-timer from the left faceoff dot past Varlamov, bringing the Stars to within one at the time.
And Jamie Benn completed the comeback minutes later. The Avalanche had full-on collapsed into a shell in front of Varlamov, who was facing a barrage of shots from the Stars first line for an entire shift. Benn simply out-worked Ian Cole in front of the net and banged home the then-game-tying goal.
With fewminutes left in the game, and the two teams tied, the Captain stepped up and put the Avalanche ahead with a perfect redirection goal. Gabe Landeskog cut across the slot and deflected a low Erik Johnson shot through the legs of Bishop to put the Avs up with only 3:20 left in the game. From there, it was just holding firm in front of Vasy and keeping Dallas to the outside.
And with 1:23 left in the game, Rantanen won a stick battle in the slot, fell to the ice, and found a way to give MacKinnon the puck. Mac had space in front of him to skate into, and he took full advantage for the empty-net goal.
The Avs play again on Monday night when the New York Islanders come to town. Puck drop at the usual 7:00 pm MT. Join us at the site and on Twitter for all-round coverage.