The Colorado Avalanche came into tonight’s game at Bell MTS Place desperately in need of a win. However, if you looked at the game from a purely analytical standpoint it didn’t seem one they were likely to win. The Winnipeg Jets have been one of the absolute best and most consistent teams in hockey this year, and came into the game tied for first in the Western Conference. The Avalanche on the other hand hadn’t won a game since January 19th, and hadn’t won a game in Winnipeg since January of 2016. The Avalanche would change that tonight, winning 4-1 with a dominating display. The goaltending, which had been subpar through the losing streak, rebounded to a level it hadn’t been at since November. Secondary scoring was on full display as well, with only one goal coming from the top line. The penalty kill was superb, and the Avalanche finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together for a much needed team win.
The first period started with a strong shift by the Jets top line. Mark Scheifele’s performance was looking very similar to his two goal effort in the Jets victory over the Rangers. Once the Jets top line left the ice however, the Avalanche began pushing play - the second line and the fourth line put in especially strong shifts - dictating play and steadily pushing their shot totals higher.
The fourth line’s hard work payed off with a perfectly worked goal by two recent call ups to the Avs. Erik Johnson did well to force a turnover in the Winnipeg zone and found AJ Greer on the doorstep. Greer could not finish but Dominic Toninato was there to clean up and sweep the rebound past Connor Hellebuyck.
After the Avalanche goal, the Jets controlled play a bit better but couldn’t find a shot on net. The fourth line continued to put in quality shifts with AJ Greer continuing his strong play.
As the fourth line came off, the top line came on and continued the momentum for the Avs. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen both had good chances before ending a perfect passing sequence with a beautiful Gabriel Landeskog goal on the back hand. The goal was Landy’s 30th of the season!
The two goal lead would not last long however, as less than 30 seconds later, Brandon Tanev sent a tough angle shot off the stick of Tyson Barrie and past Semyon Varlamov.
For the rest of the first period, both teams found good chances off turnovers, with both Varlamov and Hellebuyck making quality saves. Hellebuyck kept it a one goal game when he turned Tyson Jost away on a breakaway.
Besides the goal that snuck in against the run of play, the Avalanche couldn’t have asked for a better start against the best team in the West. The Avalanche entered the second period up 2-1 on the scoreboard and up 13-8 in shots on net
The Avalanche top line took the momentum and turned in a nice shift to start the second period, however the team found themselves chasing Mathieu Perreault after a Ryan Graves turnover led to a breakaway. Varlamov shut Perreault down with an expert save on his spinning attempt.
Shortly after, some good work by the second line, led by Matt Calvert drew a penalty. The Avalanche have had a tough time scoring on the power play recently, and although that trend continued tonight there was plenty to be positive about. The power play unit did well to cycle the puck and gave themselves a couple great looks. The power play did exceptionally well to shut down several attempts by the Jets to clear.
The Avalanche could not find the back of the net however and soon found themselves on a penalty kill of their own when Sam Girard took his first penalty all year by tossing a puck into the crowd while attempting to clear. With the incredible level of success that Winnipeg has had on the power play (especially at home), and the struggles the Avalanche penalty kill has been having, this could have easily turned into a situation all too familiar to the Avalanche.
Instead, the Avalanche managed to turn momentum completely in their favor with a J.T. Compher shorthanded goal on a breakaway. Compher deked Hellebuyck perfectly and put the puck right past his left skate.
The Avalanche managed to take advantage of the momentum for a short period of time, tossing lots of shots on net, leaving themselves great rebound opportunities and forcing offensive zone faceoffs. The game began to look sloppier and sloppier as it progressed however, and the Avalanche found themselves with their back against the wall for the last six minutes of the period.
They could not seem to clear, and when they finally did, what should’ve been an icing call was waved off and set up a great opportunity for the Jets as the Avs got caught trying to change. Varlamov was there to make up for the mistake though, turning away the shot expertly. The Jets continued to push for the remaining minutes but could not find anything. Varlamov made quite a few key saves, but the Jets also counted themselves unlucky, fanning their attempts on several shots and pushing others wide. The Avalanche end the period on top 3-1 despite the late push.
The third period started similar to how the second ended. The Avalanche had trouble clearing and continued to turn the puck over far too much. Varlamov continued his earlier success, as did the fourth line. Erik Johnson took a poor slashing penalty in the Avs defensive zone, giving the Jets a great chance to gain momentum going into the last 15 minutes of the game.
The Jets power play looked much more dangerous the second time around, but Varlamov was there to bail the Avalanche out time and time again. When the penalty finally expired, the Avs began to see the game turn back in their favor yet again.
The Jets let their frustration get the best of them, with Tanev shooting on Varlamov after the whistle on an offside play. Quite a few Avalanche players took exception to this and it ended with quite a bit of pushing and shoving. Almost immediately after, AJ Greer and Brendan Lemieux were sent to the box after Greer came to the aid of Toninato on a rough play in front of Hellebuyck.
The resulting 4-on-4 left Alexander Kerfoot with a great chance in front of net that he couldn’t finish. As the 4-on-4 ended, Kerfoot almost got on the scoresheet again, feeding a wide open MacKinnon only for the Jets to take a hooking penalty. If MacKinnon would’ve had a bit more separation it may have been a penalty shot. The ensuing power play only lasted a minute, as Sven Andrighetto received a questionable cal for interference after trying to remain onside. The Avalanche penalty kill, and especially Varlamov were stellar once again.
As the penalty ended, the Jets took one of their own when Patrik Laine tripped up Matt Calvert coming up ice. Calvert made a great play on the delayed call, and Matt Nieto found Andrighetto out of the box for a one-timer past Hellebuyck.
The Jets found themselves playing sloppy and over aggressive for the remaining minutes, and as time expired, Joe Morrow and Calvert were both tossed for fighting. Calvert once again scrapping with someone way out of his weight class.
Final 4-1 Avalanche
The Avalanche finally find themselves with a quality win after eight straight losses, and it was one they desperately needed. They got their first win in Winnipeg in over three years and outclassed a team currently in first place.
The Avalanche will need more of the same, as their next game is against the red hot St. Louis Blues, who have won seven in a row and are currently four points ahead of the Avalanche in the standings. That game will be a matinee at the Pepsi Center on Saturday, airing at 1 PM MT on Altitude