They might be teams headed in opposite directions this year — but when these two division rivals get together, you know you are in for an entertaining match-up no matter what.
Sure enough, game two for both franchises to kick off their respective 2019-2020 seasons didn’t disappoint. In the end, the Avs held on for a 4-2 win, with some fantastic saves from Philipp Grubauer — but while Nathan MacKinnon has yet to register a goal through two games, the Avalanche used a rough-and-tumble rivalry matchup to further shed their perception from last season as a purely one-line team.
Just like in game one, Colorado controlled the tempo to kick things off — and the speed of the Avalanche got the Wild turned around enough to force an early hooking penalty against Minnesota.
From there, it didn’t take long for the Avalanche to convert on their first power play of the game; Mikko Rantanen continued his hot start to the season, sniping his third goal through two games to put the Avalanche quickly up 1-0.
The new faces on the Avalanche bench have been contributing nicely so far, to boot. That one goal lead was given a bit of cushioning by one of those new faces, as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare got his first goal in an Avs sweater on a nice wrap-around goal.
Colorado continued to control the pace for most of the period. And even through Minnesota was able to get on the board on a Ryan Suter slap shot 10:17 into the period, Avalanche starter Philipp Grubauer’s highlight reel save on a Ryan Donato breakaway not long after prevented the Wild from putting up a game tying goal:
Minnesota started to get their legs towards the end of the frame, clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing the Avs to use their speed. But even though they prevented the Avalanche from scoring again, they were stymied when attempting any chances of their own — and after 20, the Avalanche were still up.
Colorado started the second short-handed, thanks to Tyson Jost’s second penalty of the game.
The Avalanche focused on shoring up their penalty kill during the off-season, and Minnesota hadn’t gotten many opportunities on the man advantage up to that point. They would, however, get the best of that new Avalanche PK about halfway through the period, when Matt Dumba fired a laser that Zach Parise tipped right past Grubauer to tie it 2-2.
The second period proved to be a bit on the sloppy side, as both teams continued to find themselves in the penalty box while the game wore on.
Much like the first game of the season, the second period saw the Avalanche ease off the gas a bit — and as a result, the action was much more even on both sides. Still, Colorado was able to score late in the period when Rantanen found Gabriel Landeskog right in front of the net, and the solid tip-in put the Avs up 3-2 after two.
Colorado finished the period without Nazem Kadri or Joonas Donskoi, who both went to the locker room with separate injuries. Kadri’s looked like the more serious injury as he took a shot from Cale Makar right of the inside ankle — but ultimately, both players would return to the bench to start the third.
Fans witnessed a lot of back and forth between the teams in the third, with the Avalanche getting more opportunities to push their lead than the Wild getting them to pull even. Cale Makar rang the bell off the crossbar on an Avalanche power-play, and Andre Burakovsky’s chance went wide moments later.
Minnesota turned up the heat late in the period and threw everything they could at Grubauer to extend them game — but the Avalanche number one wasn’t having it. And once Minnesota pulled goalie Devan Dubnyk with more than two minutes to go, Kevin Fiala’s game-tying attempt was quickly turned aside by Grubauer and picked up by Ryan Graves — who let it fly the length of the ice and into the empty net to put the game away.
Game two seemed to be a carbon copy of game one; Colorado came out strong and set the tone, had a bit of a let down in energy levels during period two, then finished strong to put the game away in period three.
Let’s not hit the panic button on Nathan MacKinnon. He’ll score, and he’ll score lots. Nothing to see here. Give some credit to the Wild defense. They really didn’t give him good angles or a good view to fire at Dubnyk. Look at it this way, for a team that relied so much on that first line and MacKinnon in particular, they have scored nine goals in two games winning both of those games and no goals coming from their All-Star.
Tyson Jost had a rough start with two silly penalties that could have really hurt the Avs. He’s not one to take penalties and the two he took (illegal face-off, interference) could have been easily avoidable. He’s got to be smarter than that.
Colorado is 2-0 and couldn’t ask for a better start to the season. Getting to 3-0 will be a big test as the Boston Bruins make their yearly trip to Denver on Thursday.