The Colorado Avalanche jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, coasting to a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on a Friday afternoon matinee on Thanksgiving weekend.
Nathan MacKinnon led the way with four points, including a goal and three assists, for the win. He is now in the top-five of league scoring — the top four are the dynamic duos in Edmonton and Boston. MacKinnon has been without his running mates for much of the season. I’m really excited to see what he can do to this league when he gets them back. Spoiler alert, Mikko Rantanen comes back tomorrow!
Pavel Francouz stopped 34 of 36 for the win, his ninth in 16 games this season. He was solid in the first, keeping the Avalanche ahead, and was a big reason why the Hawks never mounted a comeback later in the game.
Nathan MacKinnon opened the scoring for the Avalanche within the first minutes of the game when he tipped home J.T. Compher’s shot from the top of the faceoff circle. MacKinnon won the puck at his own blueline and carried it all the way to the end boards at the other end. He then forced the puck loose for Compher on the wing. The goal was initially credited to Compher, but after it was determined that MacKinnon tipped the puck up and over Corey Crawford.
Ryan Graves piled on the offense from the Avalanche about two minutes later. Joonas Donskoi carried the puck from behind the net to Matt Nieto at the point for a shot with MacKinnon in front. Noticing that both Nieto and Donskoi were at the top of the zone covering and there was open space in front of him, Graves pushed down and found the rebound MacKinnon battled to create, placing the puck perfectly into the net on the short side.
Graves and Andrew Shaw had a fight later in the period when Shaw didn’t like a hit Graves pulled. Or maybe he was angry his tem was down 2-0 and his overpaid butt wasn’t doing anything to help. Either way, Graves was two thirds of the way to a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
Graves is one assist away from the Gordie Howe hatty— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) November 29, 2019
Speaking of overpaid, Zack Smith scored from the fourth line. On the forecheck, Ian Cole lost the puck battle, Nazem Kadri over skated his man, and Nikita Zadorov hung around in the corner too long and left the middle of the ice wide open. Compher was trying to get there in time, but couldn’t do so.
Avs slowed down in the middle part of the frame, but Logan O’Connor drew an interference penalty on Erik Gustavsson with some great effort on the forecheck. Makar quickly took advantage on the power play that followed. The Avs did a good job condensing the penalty killers down so Makar’s shot came from the heart of the slot rather than from farther away. Once in position, Makar loosed a hard, accurate shot that found the top corner for his eighth goal of the season. Eight! Damn, boy.
It was a good strong start from the Avalanche. They pounced on the Hawks early and forced the game to be a high-paced game rather than the slow games this Chicago team prefers. However, at 5v5, the Avs trailed in shot attempts (12-21), shots (6-9) and scoring chances (4-8). The Hawks sped up by the end of the period, but the power play goal killed the momentum they gained as a result from the 5-6 minutes of strong play.
Makar forces his way down the wing on the rush and pings the puck off the crossbar. So close!
Valeri Nichushkin showed off some incredible flair on this goal that opened the second period. He found a loose puck at his blue line and proceeded to out-skate everyone on the ice before dangling on Crawford and going shelf. Amazing footwork and power from the big winger.
Compher scored his first of the game that wasn’t stolen from him by MacKinnon. This goal was also created from a broken offensive attempt from the Hawks that started with miscommunication and ended with a chance at the other end. MacKinnon started a 3-on-1 with Compher to his right and Nieto on his left. MacKinnon went right and Compher made it count with a wrist shot.
Patrick Kane brought the Hawks back within three with a few seconds to go in the second. Cole was supposed to be covering Kane in front of the net but he got lost in no-man’s land closer to the corner than at the front of the net. Kane stopped the point shot from Brent Seabrook and buried the puck on the backhand.
Another bad period from the Avs on paper, and yet, they scored twice and all but finished the game.
The Avs were fully off the gas in this period, and the Hawks came at them a few times with periods of pressure, but the Avs stayed strong in the defensive zone and didn’t allow the Hawks to build up a comeback. Good period, especially considering this was the only period the Avs tied the Hawks in shot attempts.
- Something can be said for score effects playing a big role in this game because the Avs hadn’t looked any less dangerous in the game, they just had the puck less and weren’t getting as much in terms of volume. At the end of the day, playing the odds with volume will win out, but for this game, it didn’t really matter.
- A lot should be said for Pavel Francouz and his performance. He played great and did his job whenever he was called. He was busy, but never overwhelmed and he was rewarded for it with the win.
- Nate MacKinnon now has 39 points (16g, 23a) in 25 games. That is on pace for 128 points. His latest run of points (21 (8g, 13a) in 10 games has all come without Mikko Rantanen. The two will be reunited tomorrow, when the Avalanche play the same Blackhawks at home on Saturday night. 7pm MT. puck drop. Be there!