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Avalanche start the season with a big win against the Flames

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That’s one down, 81 to go

NHL: Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche hockey is back and the team was able to start the season off the right way. After a dominant first period, the Avs held on to beat the Calgary Flames 5-3. Mikko Rantanen led the way with two goals, but this was a complete team effort. It’s only one game but this Avalanche team looks far more balanced than the one we saw last season. Three dangerous offensive lines and a complete lineup that can play at a high pace.

For those of you who missed it, here’s how the game played out:

First Period

The Avalanche got off to about as good a start as you can hope for as they went to the power play only 10 seconds into the first. Both power play units looked really good but were held at bay by some stellar goaltending from David Rittich - the culmination of which came as he robber Joonas Donskoi on the doorstep as the penalty expired.

The Avs went back to the powerplay shortly after and Donskoi would get his revenge. He scored his first in an Avalanche uniform as he deflected home a point shot from Samuel Girard. The goal was aided by Val Nichushkin providing a huge screen right in front of Rittich. The big Russian looked great in the first period and quickly showed by he made this team out of camp.

A couple minutes later, with the Avs already shorthanded, Nikita Zadorov took a lazy hooking penalty to put the team down two. After a minute of great penalty killing from J.T. Compher, the Flames were finally able to generate a scoring chance as they put their first shot of the season past Philipp Grubauer to tie the game up at one.

The Avalanche dominated the play at even strength but thanks to a couple of crossbars - one on Kadri and one on Timmins - the score remained tied until the Big Moose notched his first of the season. Breaking in off or a rush on another powerplay, Mikko Rantanen was able to beat Rittich to take back the one goal lead heading into the intermission.

The first period was completely one sided as Colorado outshot the Flames 14-3. Had it not been for some great play by Rittich, the Avs could have easily been up 6-1 going into the second.

Second Period

It didn’t take long for the Flames to tie the game up as Johnny Gaudreau scored less than two minutes into the period. The goal was a powerplay marker as Andre Burakovsky was in the box after taking an interference penalty. This was a goal The Avs netminder would probably like to have back.

The Flames looked like a completely different team though the first half of the period. They came alive and put on a lot of pressure on the Avs but Grubauer settled in and made a number of big saves before his team could find their form.

After gaining some momentum back the Avalanche took yet another lead as Compher finished off a great passing play from Zadorov and Matt Calvert. The goal came just as another Flames penalty expired and put the Avs up 3-2.

A short while later the Avalanche were able to stretch their lead to two for the first time as Mikko scored his second of the game on yet another powerplay. This one was set up by a nice pass from Nathan MacKinnon.

Unfortunately, mere seconds later the Flames were able to get one back as Mark Giordano scored on a goal that Grubauer should have definitely had. He had been fighting the puck all night and just completely lost his net on the goal from the Flames’ captain. It was a complete defensive breakdown but a shot you hope your goalie stops.

Colorado escaped what turned out to be a fairly frantic period - heading to the intermission with a 4-3 lead.

Third Period

After a rocky second period Grubauer looked solid to start the finale frame. After a very ugly turnover by Cale Makar at the offensive blueline, Grubauer made a great save to maintain the one goal lead.

The two teams traded chances in what was the most even period of the game. Grubauer put a rocky second period behind him as he looked solid and confident turning away 14 Flames shots in the third.

With Rittich on the bench, Donskoi was able to break up the Calgary pressure and put the puck in the empty net for his second goal as an Av solidifying the 5-3 victory.

Takeaways

  • Nichushkin was really, REALLY good. He used his side with and without the puck and played a key role on the second powerplay unit.
  • The top line was flying and while Mikko was incredibly impressive, J.T. Compher might have been the best Avalanche on the ice.
  • Cale Makar looked like a blue chip rookie - lots of great plays but a couple brain cramps that almost cost the team.
  • Bednar did a good job of putting Makar and Zadorov in a position to succeed - a lot of offensive zone starts.
  • Grubauer looked really shaky in the second but really good in the third. Don’t be surprised if that’s the sort of thing we see a lot this season.
  • The crossbar owes Kadri and Timmins their first goals in an Avalanche jersey.
  • Tyson Jost had some tremendous chances but just couldn’t buy a goal.
  • A couple months away and it’s easy to forget just how fun it is to watch Sam Girard play.

Next up, the Avalanche host the Minnesota Wild (0-1) at the Pepsi Center on Saturday.