The Colorado Avalanche won their fifth game in a row after a 3-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on home ice. Mikko Rantanen scored the first and eventual game-winning goal in the first period when he ethered Ron Hainsey into a retirement home with a spin-o-rama at the blueline before finishing off his breakaway in style. Philipp Grubauer stopped all 34 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season.
The Avs are now sixth in the NHL in points and second behind the St. Louis Blues in the Central Division after 55 games. The Blues are one point ahead with 73 points in 56 games, so they are absolutely within striking distance.
Mikko Rantanen opened the scoring near the end of a frustrating first period. With less than a minute to go in the period, Mikko caught Ron Hainsey cheating to the outside, spun him around, and buried a lovely backhand past Sens goalie Marcus Hogberg. Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan Graves each picked up an assist on the goal after a successful breakout from their own zone.
The first period was very frustrating. The Sens were clogging up the middle of the zone at all times and had slowly chipped away to a 16-24 shot attempts advantage by the end of the period. However, the Avalanche had a massive advantage in talent so the chances they were able to get were significantly more dangerous per capita.
Both teams got a power play with first line wingers Gabriel Landeskog and Connor Brown each spending time in the box, but it was the Avalanche who got two shots and five attempts during their two minutes while the Sens could only manage one on theirs. Gabe was a little justified after standing up for MacKinnon, who had gotten hit high by Dylan DeMelo.
“We will kill that penalty any day” - Mikko in response to Landeskog’s penalty after standing up for MacKinnon. Gotta love it. pic.twitter.com/6hqEzoS9Z4— Lauren Jbara (@laurenjbara) February 12, 2020
Nick Paul may have scored in the second half of the period after he pushed the puck in after getting thrown into Philipp Grubauer by Gabe. Despite seeing the puck clearly going in the net, the referees deemed the whistle had blown before the puck went in, so the goal was called back. Paul later got himself an unsportsmanlike penalty for seemingly mouthing off about losing one of his six goals on the season.
The Paul penalty was one of three power plays the Avalanche got in the scoreless second. They found nine shot attempts in a little over five minutes, including two more strong chances. However, the Sens had kept the middle of the slot so full of sticks that none of the Avs’ cross-ice passes were getting through.
The second period was much better in terms of shot share, as the Avalanche were able to limit the Senators to only nine shot attempts while trying 16 of their own. This matched the eye-test as the Sens didn’t look capable of sustaining any offensive pressure at any point in the period, all of their chances were coming off the counterattack (like Paul’s).
Finally the Avalanche converted on one of their five penalties in the game. Valeri Nichushkin snuck into the middle of the ice with the second unit power play and softly deflected a shot-pass from Andre Burakovsky at the opposite wing.
The play developed from a zone entry that led to a Tyson Jost miss. The Avs quickly pounced on the rebound and kept players in the slot and point in order to not waste any time setting up. It was a very well-coordinated play that ended up being a good tactic for the well-coached Sens. They were really good all night at limiting chances when defending set plays less so off the rush or from an organic play.
The Sens pulled the goalie with a couple minutes left, but they failed to generate a shot before Landeskog finished off the game with an empty-net marker.
- Gruby didn’t have much of a busy night. Sure, he had to stop 34 shots and earned the shutout as a result, but the Sens were shooting from everywhere in this game, and that mostly means from the outside. When they did get rebounds in front, it wasn’t anything much more than banging at Grubauers pads while he sat there. They didn’t make him move laterally very much at all. Apart from getting run over by Paul and Landy, he could’ve been asleep in the second period for all I knew.
- I liked JT Compher and rest of the “bottom-nine” players on the team in this one. It’s a very low bar to jump over when you’re being asked to make the Sens look bad, but I thought they showed a lot of energy and skill in this game. I liked Burakovsky and Nichushkin a lot in this game, too. Tyson Jost was only one of two Avs players who didn’t get a shot in this game (Matt Nieto was the other), but I thought he played well with who he had and when he got the opportunity to play higher in the lineup, he took advantage and made some good plays.