In search of a win to kick off the 2020 portion of the season, the Colorado Avalanche hosted the western conference leader and division rival in the St. Louis Blues. Not an easy task but through hard work and determination their skill shined and the Avalanche were able to create some gorgeous plays in an eventual 7-3 victory.
It was a slog to get through the entire first frame, which would be quite the contrast to what happened later. The Blues had two dangerous looking power plays and the Avalanche had one less than dangerous of their own. Shots were fairly even 9-8 in favor of the Avalanche but the period was looking to end in a scoreless tie until Nathan MacKinnon happened. With just 11 seconds to go MacKinnon forced a turnover and immediately turned that into a breakaway and buried the puck over Jordan Binnington’s shoulder.
The Avalanche built on the momentum from the goal in the second period when Nazem Kadri deposits a sharp angle shot on a rebound from a Sam Girard shot to add to the home team’s lead at 3:20.
But wait, there’s more. After the brutal failure on the 5-on-3 in Dallas the Avalanche looked better prepared for this opportunity. Cale Makar fed a perfect seam pass from the left circle to Mikko Rantanen for his signature one timer at 7:40 and the Avalanche were up by three.
Unfortunately the period was not yet over and the Blues took advantage of some of their chances. First on some confusion between Erik Johnson and Philipp Grubauer covering the puck led to a broken play and a wrap around goal for Robert Thomas at 13:42. Then a power play chance was quickly converted at 16:19 off a faceoff by Alex Pietrangelo.
Before the period was over the Avalanche had one more trick up their sleeve and that was another late period tally with 16 seconds to go this time from Makar with some magic on the power play. He had been firing shots all night but finally got one to drop to push the lead back up to two.
The Blues did their best to keep the pressure on in the third period but Girard and Kadri combined for their second goal of the evening at Val Nichushkin made a slick zone entry and pushed the defense back which allowed Girard to move into space and then fired off a misdirection pass to Kadri for the one timer at 6:56.
It was all but over at that point but a few more goals went on the board nonetheless. JT Compher scored on the power play at 12:05 and then Joonas Donskoi got in on the action at 14:19. The seventh goal was too much with just over five minutes left to keep Binnington in the game apparently and he was pulled in favor of Jake Allen. The final tally went to the Blues when Robert Thomas capitalized on a couple turnovers at 16:14 and the game ended 7-3 for the Avalanche and shots 42-27 in their favor as well.
- Quietly Nathan MacKinnon is now up to third in league scoring with 62 points and just one and two points behind Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid respectively. MacKinnon’s effort and determination to score the first goal in this contest really set the tone for the rest of the game.
- The revamped lines were clearly a success in this game and gave the Avalanche some extra energy on each. The true test will be how long that spark sustains and if any new obvious duos emerge. The move to a more 1A/1B power play also seems to have injected some life into the units and keeping penalty killers guessing.
- There were a lot of great performances in this game but it was a special one for Sam Girard with a career high four point night, which also ties a franchise record for points from a defenseman in a single game. The chemistry he found with Kadri was a catalyst as well as Girard getting back to using his skating ability to create space to make plays. He also led the defense with a 65% Corsi for and four even strength shot attempts.
The Avalanche head out on the road for three games in the New York City area first starting with New Jersey on Saturday, January 4th at 5pm MT.