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Avalanche win third straight for SoCal Sweep with 2-1 win over Kings

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Colorado Avalanche v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images

It took a trip to the skills competition to get the job done — and on a night full of high-scoring games, it took an elite goaltending effort instead.

But for the Colorado Avalanche, all it took was a single successful shootout goal from Joonas Donskoi to help the team pick up a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. For an evening full of victories in the Western Conference, two points was crucial; with Donskoi’s solid effort and a great goaltending performance once again from Pavel Francouz, Colorado managed to keep up their winning ways to sweep Southern California and pick up their third straight.

THE RUNDOWN

The Avalanche entered Saturday night’s game boldly opting to give goaltender Pavel Francouz, fresh off of his brand-new contract extension with the team, his second game in a back-to-back series down in sunny SoCal.

What could have been a lesson in fatiguing the Czech-born netminder during Philipp Grubauer’s injury absence, though, ended up proving that the team’s tandem system this year has been working flawlessly. Francouz looked energized from start to finish, allowing just one goal in both regulation and overtime following his shutout of the Anaheim Ducks the night before.

His only goal of the last two nights game less than five minutes into the first period, when Kings forward Austin Wagner was awarded a penalty shot thanks to a hooking call against Nikita Zadorov during his initial offensive breakaway. Wagner came in confidently on Francouz, flipping the puck quickly and cleanly over his glove hand to put the Kings up on just their second shot of the game:

The Avalanche wouldn’t even things up until the sixteenth minute of the second period, when Ryan Graves netted his ninth of the season thanks to a beautiful drop feed from Gabriel Landeskog just inside the offensive zone.

Neither team would figure out how to pull ahead during either regulation or extra time, leaving the fate of the game to the shootout — and thanks to two saves from Francouz and a miss by Kings newcomer Gabriel Vilardi, the Avalanche skated away from the Pacific Coast with four of a possible four points under their belts.

THE TAKEAWAYS

  • Pavel Francouz. Pretty good! As if his new contract extension — which will pay out $2 million per season over each of the next two years — wasn’t already reasonable enough, he’s proven that he can handle a pretty strenuous workload for the team when need be during Grubauer’s injury absence. The hope is still that Finnish youngster Justus Annunen will be the heir apparent to the throne in net in the next handful of years, but it’s nice to know that the players currently on the roster are more than capable of getting the job done; one goal against over a two game back-to-back series is pretty damn impressive.
  • As good as Francouz has been, though, the rest of the team has scored just two actual goals in their last two games — and they only managed one in the shootout on Saturday night. It’s good that goaltending can sometimes bail a team out, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the rest of the team’s ability to score. This time last year, the Avalanche were able to win their way back into the playoffs with serious offensive bursts; the goaltending has been nice, but it would be even better to see a few goals now and again as well.