After gathering a crucial point the previous night in St. Louis in the race for the final Western Conference wild card, the Colorado Avalanche headed into this meeting against the Edmonton Oilers desperate to pick up two points in order to stay ahead of the Arizona Coyotes. Both teams entered this contest on the second night of a back-to-back and traveled after their previous game so it was difficult to predict where the energy and advantage lied in this one. The Avalanche overcame another slow start and battled back to take the victory in what turned out to be a 6-2 drubbing of the Oilers.
It was a rerun of last night in the first period as the Avalanche gave up two goals and were outshot for a majority of the frame. Milan Lucic scored his sixth goal of the season on a deflection at 9:20 and then at 13:01 Darnell Nurse flipped the puck over goaltender Semyon Varlamov for the two goal lead. It was exactly what the Avalanche needed to avoid in a near must win game.
Then, the fastest four goals of the season happened.
After it looked like the Avalanche were going to waste three consecutive power plays to begin the second period they finally hit paydirt at 4:56 when Nathan MacKinnon danced through the offensive zone and deposited the puck behind goaltender Mikko Koskinen. It was also MacKinnon’s 40th goal of the season and 400th career point.
Exactly a minute later Tyson Barrie added his own score to bring the game even at two goals each. A great shot of his own was set up with a slick hit and breakout started by Nikita Zadorov.
The home team was just getting warmed up as Alexander Kerfoot contributed his own heroics after his game tying goal the previous evening with another huge tally to give the Avalanche the lead at 7:43. Kerfoot was in the perfect spot to pounce on a rebound and sweep it into the net.
Finally, Colin Wilson decided to get in on the action at 12:04 with an incredible spinning backwards backhand. The puck had eyes and then some as its trajectory surprised everyone in the building and put the Avalanche up 4-2 to close out the period. At the end of the just over seven minute barrage 10 different players in burgundy sweaters were awarded a point on tallies from four different goal scorers, a complete team effort.
For the final frame it initially looked like the Avalanche were going to have to hold on for dear life as they had done in recent victories but the unsung hero Kerfoot struck again at 7:30 and gave the team some breathing room. The goal was initially called off for goaltender interference but the Avalanche challenged and the call was overturned as it appeared Kerfoot poked the puck past Koskinen prior to making contact with his glove.
Then the final dagger from the fourth line gave the Avalanche their sixth and final goal at 15:07 when Sven Andrighetto snapped the puck in the back of the net on a gorgeous feed from Tyson Jost. Now the Avalanche stand at 88 points with two games to go.
- In the six games of Mikko Rantanen’s mysterious absence it is Alexander Kerfoot who has stepped up and helped fill the void with eight points including three goals in that span. Both goals this evening were at critical junctures of the contest and gave the team a boost. He quietly has amassed 42 points this season, which is one off his total from last year. As someone who isn’t always visible for stretches he has put forth two consistently productive seasons and is in line for an interesting summer ahead as a restricted free agent.
- It was a mild surprise Semyon Varlamov received the start in this contest despite being the second half of a back-to-back because Philipp Grubauer had played the last eight consecutive games including the back-to-back against Chicago. Varlamov might have wanted one of the goals back from the first period but ended up with his 20th win of the season in an overall solid 23 save effort. With Varlamov’s future in Colorado uncertain this could have possibly been one of if not the last start for him in an Avalanche sweater and leaves his tenure on a positive note.
- There was one other game on the docket this evening of critical importance and that was the LA Kings at Arizona Coyotes. After the Avalanche secured their victory it was another hour of nerves to learn the result of that contest. A Kings win also meant that the Ottawa Senators, and their first round pick which belongs to the Avalanche, would secure last place in the league. The Kings managed to do just that as they held on to a 3-1 victory in the desert and gave the Avalanche a magic number of one. Thus, any one point gained by the Avalanche in their next two games or lost by Arizona in their two will clinch the wild card for Colorado. Close enough to sense the celebration but still work to be done ahead.
In the final home game in the regular season, the Winnipeg Jets come to town at 7pm MT on Thursday, April 4th.