After suffering their first loss of the season Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, the Colorado Avalanche traveled to the Sunshine State for a weekend back-to-back. With Nathan MacKinnon nursing a lower-body injury, it looked as though Friday night was going to be one of those nights where the team was just off. The Avalanche came out flat and fell behind early. Luckily, the team was able to weather the storm long enough to find their legs. After a dominant second period, the Avalanche were able to come back and beat the Florida Panthers 5-4 in overtime.
Andre Burakovsky led the way with two goals, while the OT winner was scored by the guy you’d expect. After a bad first period, the team could have just coasted their way through the remaining 40 minutes - looking towards the matchup with Tampa Bay Saturday night. That’s not what the Avs did. They came back quickly and were able to extend their record to 6-0-1 on the season.
Despite Nathan MacKinnon being healthy enough to play - he was a game time decision after missing the morning skate - and the return of Nikita Zadorov’s presence to the lineup, the Avalanche looked really bad in the first period. Jonathan Huberdeau scored early on a shot that found its way through Philipp Grubauer. Only five minutes later, Frank Vatrano used his impressive speed to pull away from Samuel Girard on a rush - scoring his first of the season
Down 2-0 after less than half a period, Joonas Donskoi cut the lead in half - putting home the rebound of an Ian Cole point shot.
Unfortunately, the Avs weren’t able to build on the goal. A few minutes later, Huberdeau got his second of the game. The goal came off of some bad defensive zone play by Cale Makar. It’s one of the first shifts so far this season where Makar has actually looked like a rookie.
Down 3-1 going into the intermission, the Avalanche didn’t look close to the team we had seen through the first six games of the season.
The team came out flat again to start the second period and if it weren’t for some solid play from Grubauer, this one could have got away from them. The Avs netminder was able to hold the deficit at two long enough for the team’s secondary scoring to kick in. Nearly midway through the period, Matt Nieto scored his second of the season on a play that was started off by some great board work by Matt Calvert. Pierre-Eduard Bellemare found the puck and made a beautiful pass to Nieto in front of the next; 3-2.
The goal marked a big momentum shift in the game and it only took the Avalanche a few seconds to tie it up - 32 seconds to be exact. This time it was Andre Burakovsky who sniped a great wrist shot past Bobrovsky to make the game 3-3.
With the first line getting outplayed for the first half of the game, it was the team’s newfound depth that pulled the Avalanche even in this game.
The tie didn’t last long as Brett Connolly pulled the Panthers back ahead with six minutes remaining in the period. After a giveaway in the offensive zone by Calvert, Connolly was able to put a perfect shot past Grubauer on a 2 on 2 rush that wasn’t played very well by Zadorov.
As he did earlier in the period, Burakovsky took only a few seconds to tie the game up yet again. Like the Donskoi goal in the first, Bura was able to bat home the rebound of an Ian Cole point shot. The game was tied going into the third period.
If you just look at the box score, fans could be given the impression that the third period wasn’t over eventful. After the teams combined for eight goals in the previous 40 minutes, no one was able to find the back of the net but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Grubauer made 12 saves in the period - none of which were bigger than when he robbed Sasha Barkov on the doorstep.
He made one more huge save in the final minute of the game to ensure the team got at last a point. For a team that has been forced to rely on their stars for two seasons, it was Grubauer and the depth forwards that carried this game to overtime.
Grubauer made another incredible save with 35 seconds to go in regulation. He carried the Avalanche long enough for the team to win in overtime pic.twitter.com/ej8e7CCjdW— Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie) October 19, 2019
After two big saves from Grubauer - including one on a breakaway - the Avalanche were able to end this one. After some scrambled play, it was (who else) Nathan MacKinnon who was able to get a wrist shot past Bobrovsky for the overtime winner.
The Avalanche were able to steal a 5-4 victory but will have no time to rest. The team will take their 6-0-1 record into Tampa Bay for a date with the Lightning Saturday evening.