After a difficult stretch with one win over the last five games, the Colorado Avalanche entered their Wednesday night contest looking for some traction before heading into the short holiday break.
It was tough, but the team did just that, holding off Montreal in a 2-1 victory in which all the hallmarks of their currently style of game were clearly on display.
First up was a delay of game penalty, which gave Montreal an early — and ultimately successful — power-play, continuing the Avalanche’s penalty and penalty kill troubles. Brendan Gallagher scored on a long shot through traffic at 5:43 in the first, and the Avalanche failed to convert on their own power-play opportunities later in the period to head into the first intermission down by a goal.
Despite the team getting outshot 14-4 in the second period, though, it was Mikko Rantanen — not one of the Canadiens — who would get on the board at 4:21 of the middle frame. Montreal goaltender Carey Price mishandled the puck early in the period, passing right to Nathan MacKinnon to directly set up Rantanen for an easy score.
The home team came out of the dressing room for the third period full of energy, and grabbed the lead just 35 seconds into the frame when Gabriel Landeskog used his nifty stick skills and swatted the puck in the net.
Of course, no Avalanche game would be complete without a review for goaltender interference — but this one was short and went in favor of Landeskog.
The rest of the period, like the majority of the game, was a bit of a slog to get through. Both teams, desperate for a win and hoping to help out their goaltenders, spent the majority of the minutes in a battle to grab possession of the puck.
The Avalanche shut the door when needed, though, and skated away with a much-needed victory — which hopefully jump starts the rest of their week with a back-to-back carrying them into the holiday break.
Philipp Grubauer was sharp in this contest, making 35 saves on 36 shots — including some big stops in the third period alone. It was a game to build off of, especially with the door open for him to grab the starting job and hopes to lock down the future of the Avalanche net.
The bad news, of course, is that Nikita Zadorov exited the game in the second period with a lower body injury. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar predictably did not have an update on Zadorov after the game — but with Mark Barberio still dealing with his own injury and Mark Alt back with the Eagles, the Avalanche have not been carrying any healthy extra defensemen. Now would be time to consider other options for a call-up, including prospect Nicolas Meloche.
Mikko Rantanen’s quest to hit 60 points before the holiday break is now two points closer, as he sits at 58 points with two games to go. Nathan MacKinnon extended his point streak to seven games with two points in this contest as well, and holds firm at second in the league in scoring to Rantanen with 55 points.
The home stand ends with a match against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, December 21st at 7pm MT.