Getting back in the win column was a necessity for the Colorado Avalanche after dropping three straight “home” games and that was a tough task against a very stingy defensive team like the New York Islanders. The Avalanche worked hard to build a three goal lead and then held on for a 3-1 victory.
The Avalanche started this game out of the gate skating hard and the new look second line of JT Compher, Val Nichushkin and Joonas Donskoi cashed in on one of their chances when Donskoi tipped a Cale Makar shot at 9:07 for the game’s first score. The first period ended with a 17-11 shot advantage for the Avalanche as well.
Andre Burakovsky scored his 20th goal for the first time in his career and extended the lead just 45 seconds into the second frame. Nathan MacKinnon made a scissor play to Burakovsky and he buried the shot. The rest of the period ended up a bit of a slog as multiple penalties were traded and it was difficult to establish much flow but still the Avalanche kept pushing.
In the third period it was expected the Islanders would make a push but it was Cale Makar who took the puck and circled the entire offensive zone while holding off Mathew Barzal to set up Gabe Landeskog on a much needed insurance goal at 7:43. Makar did not get his third assist of the evening on this goal because the puck was worked back to Ryan Graves and then Landeskog tipped a MacKinnon shot but he made the play happen on a superstar type of effort and earned his eventual first star nod.
The Islanders pulled Semyon Varlamov with just under three minutes left and Brock Nelson unfortunately broke Pavel Francouz’s shutout bid after a scramble in front of the crease. Other than that the Avalanche locked it down in the third period and didn’t offer a lot of opportunity to the Islanders to pull out the complete effort and a 3-1 final score.
This game was Martin Kaut’s NHL debut and it was the right time to give him the opportunity. He played 7:47 minutes with two hits, a high danger scoring chance plus one other strong look and 54% Corsi For playing mostly with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Nieto. Kaut was strong on the boards, won his battles and played responsibly but also put himself in position to create a couple chances and Jared Bednar called his first outing “great”. An early glimmer of chemistry with Sam Girard was evident and could become a good match down the line as both are intelligent playmakers. Upcoming games against some weaker teams should open up some more ice time for Kaut moving forward.
Valeri Nichushkin picked up a secondary assist on the opening goal but he deserved much more than a point in this contest. Though the first two periods in particular he was an animal on the puck and gave the Islanders fits. He was at +21/-0 Corsi (that’s 100% Corsi for) after those 40 minutes and had his own shot ring off the crossbar. Nichushkin has been impressive for several months now but he’s elevating his game to a consistent second line level and would be a shame to reduce his ice time when bodies return or arrive after the progress he’s made this season.
Pavel Francouz had a very nice bounce back game and deserved to earn his first NHL shutout. Still, his 27 save showing was good enough for the third star as he made numerous key stops. Bednar indicated that Francouz was likely to play in both games on the upcoming road trip as he’s rested and also seems to play better when he gets in a groove.
A trip to California for a back-to-back before the trade deadline. First game is in Anaheim on Friday at 8pm MT.