Break up the Avs! Coming off a hard fought, well played victory against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Colorado Avalanche took the ice against division rival Winnipeg Jets to try to keep the momentum going, and keep it they did by blowing out the Jets 7-1.
From the time the puck hit the ice the Avs were in control of the matchup. They were relentless in their attack on Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck firing and while the Winnipeg netminder struggled facing a total of 46 shots, the one in net for Colorado put up his second solid performance in a row. Semyon Varlamov followed his 3-0 shutout of Vegas by stopping 26 of 27 shots and helped Colorado to their first back-to-back wins since November.
With the win the Avs find themselves back into the last Wild Card slot and with Chicago winning tonight as well are tied in points with the Blackhawks with 61 but have a game in hand. Not oddly enough, after a day off tomorrow the Avs will travel to Chicago in an all important matchup.
Colorado did a great job controlling the pace early on. They developed excellent scoring chances that just couldn’t make it through Hellebuyck in the early stages but it was good to see some early pressure by multiple lines in the early going. It seemed like the game plan was to pepper Hellebuyck as much as possible to keep the Jets netminder on his toes early and if one was able to sneak through then that was a bonus. The Avs were not waiting in looking for a perfect shot or a perfect pass. If they had an opening for a shot, they took it.
The pace really picked up about half way through when both teams seemed to have gained some legs. The Avs had their best opportunity when Gabriel Landeskog split defenders and saw his wrist shot clink off the crossbar.
Colorado continued to control the pace of play and throughout the period. Winnipeg had a couple of decent chances but overall they were of the defense the majority of the period with the Avalanche putting so much pressure on them. Colorado was making solid passing, the energy was high and a lesser goaltender for the opponent would have probably let in a few of the Avalanche chances.
With less than a minute to go J.T. Compher broke free and tried to go backhand on Hellebuyck on a breakaway who made the save but left the rebound front and center sitting in the crease as Tyson Jost had a wide open net to bury the goal. John Morrissey was able to get his stick on Jost’s to prevent the score. In the chaos Jost was able to draw a slashing penalty and the Avs will start the second period on the power play.
A very hard fought first period by Colorado who out shot Winnipeg 15-11 but the eye test would have you believe that difference in shots was much greater.
The Avs would have no luck on the power play to start the period but as soon as it ended Winnipeg would be called for another penalty of the roughing variety. Colorado would control the puck in the Winnipeg zone for most of the power play but couldn’t find the net with the extra skater. Instead they waited until a few seconds after the penalty ended for them to score their first of the game when Carl Soderberg put home a Tyson Jost shot that bounced behind Hellebuyck for Soderberg to clean up.
After trading unsuccessful penalties Colorado would score again following a wild series that caused Hellebuyck to find himself way out of position as Mikko Rantanen collected a beautiful Matt Nieto pass and had nothing but an open net in front of him that he would bury to give the Avs a 2-0 lead.
Nathan MacKinnon would put his talent on display with two dazzling displays of speed. One would end with a shot on goal saved by Hellebuyck while the other only seconds later would draw a holding penalty, and just like to start the second period, the Avs will see themselves on the power play to start the third.
It was a penalty filled 20 minutes but another solid period by Colorado. They carried over the pressure they had in the first to the second period and saw the benefits. There was no let down in game plan; the Avs had Winnipeg on their heels for the majority of the period. They matched their first period shots on goal and with an elite goalie like Connor Hellebuyck they needed him to work and and that is exactly what they did.
The Avs power play drought would come to an end as MacKinnon would send home a slap shot for his 30th goal of the year and put the Avs up 3-0.
Public address announcer Alan Roach wasn’t even finished announcing to the crowd the MacKinnon goal before the Avalanche would strike again as Matt Calvert would muscle his way to the puck in front of Hellebuyck that somehow went lifted over the head of the Winnipeg goaltender and 11 seconds between goals gave the Avs a 4-0 lead.
Winnipeg would draw a penalty and end a power play drought of their own with a goal by Kyle Connor. Initially the goal was called off due to the officials blowing a whistle while the puck was under Varlamov rendering the play dead. The puck crossed the red line clearly after the whistle had blown but the refs would review the play and determine the puck was not stopped and allowed the goal to the confusion of many.
Colorado would get another and add to their lead when Tyson Jost would bury a rebound just as their power play was expiring to give the Avs a 5-1 lead.
The frustration of Winnipeg started to show. In a game already filled with penalties and with the Jets down by four, the third period started to see penalty boxes struggling to maintain all the bodies inside them. Multiple penalties by both teams culminated with a brief exchange of fists between Nikita Zadorov and Mark Scheifele. Between all penalty minutes dished out to both teams the scoreboard remained unchanged.
To pour salt in the open wound, Jost set this pretty saucer to the captain for yet another score.
Just when you thought it was over, why not get a little bit of history for the cherry on top as A.J. Greer would put home his first ever goal with less than a minute left to complete the blow out 7-1.
This was a complete performance by Colorado from beginning to end, and with time running out in the season, each and every point is of the utmost importance. For the second straight game, Colorado stuck with their line changes and if they keep getting production like this there will be no need to hastily change back to their ‘regular’ lines.
Tyson Jost took what he learned when he was sent down a level and seemed like a completely different player tonight. A goal, two assists, and a plus-three rating against a high-level team will no doubt boost the confidence of the young center.
Carl Soderberg continued his stellar play as well in getting three points himself (1G, 2A) and a plus-four rating.
When games get out of hand like this, it’s normal for the losing team to try and get under the skin of the team ahead. Winnipeg did their best to draw dumb penalties and for the most part Colorado held their ground and did not let Winnipeg’s attempt to get back in the game through other means succeed.
It’s amazing Colorado is in the position they are right now with how difficult it has been for them to win games the past few months, but their record is their record and they should not apologize for being in that last Wild Card spot. It’s been a while since they have held a playoff position and they are now in the position to hold onto it for as long as possible.