The Colorado Avalanche made some bold choices heading into the second half of their Friday-Saturday back-to-back series, opting to play starting goaltender Pavel Francouz for the entire series.
It was a game that almost ended too close for comfort, with two late-game goals for the hosting Nashville Predators on Saturday night. But ultimately, the Avalanche managed to hold on and take home a close 3-2 win — setting a record for their longest road win streak in team history at 8-0-0 in the process.
The Avalanche arrived in Nashville on Saturday hoping to pull even closer to the St. Louis Blues in the race for the top of the Western Conference, tired from a tight 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes the night before.
The first period saw both teams struggle to get pucks past both Francouz and Nashville’s Juuse Saros, who has been white-hot for the Predators over his last three starts leading up to the appearance on Saturday.
The Avalanche were the first to get on the board, though, when captain Gabriel Landeskog found a sneaky corner on a sharp angle to lift the first goal of the game past Saros over 13 minutes into the second frame.
The Avalanche seemed on pace to coast to an easy win when they followed that goal up with a second tally in the second period, courtesy of former first rounder Martin Kaut (who now has two goals and counting at the NHL level for the organization):
The score remained at 2-0 until Viktor Arvidsson snuck the first goal of the night for Nashville past Francouz 14 minutes into the third — and although the Avalanche would then net an insurance goal with just :57 seconds to go, the Predators managed to keep it interesting by scoring with two seconds left courtesy of Calle Jarnkrok.
It was just enough to keep things interesting for the hometown crowd — but not quite enough to defeat the elite-looking Francouz, who took home yet another win.
- The biggest question coming into this season seemed to be whether or not Francouz would be able to support Grubauer enough to serve as a quality NHL backup in just his second North American pro season. But as the year has gone on, he’s proven that he may even have NHL starter material; he’s been one of the most impressive players for the Avalanche from the start of the year on. The workload question heading down the back stretch, at this point, will be whether the team wants to rest up Francouz or not — because the way he’s been playing, he may very well be earning himself some games in the postseason.
- Martin Kaut needed the development time before getting up to the NHL game, but he’s been creative and fun over the last few games. He was lauded as a defensively responsible, quietly effective player when the Avalanche drafted him — so it’s nice to watch him do something fun as he breaks out of his shell.
- Congratulations to Erik Johnson on 300 career points in the NHL! We love that big, toothless goof.