After a hard fought game in Columbus the Colorado Avalanche travelled west for one final stop on the five-game road trip. Meeting the Minnesota Wild in the second half of a back-to-back at the tail end of a long trip was no easy task especially with how much of a physical and emotional battle this contest became. In the end it was the Avalanche who emerged victorious with the two points in a 3-2 win.
As expected there was a lack of execution first period from the Avalanche. What was present, however, was effort and energy even if the poise was lacking. Goaltender Pavel Francouz made several high quality saves for the Avalanche to bail out a few of the turnovers and miscues to keep the game scoreless after one.
After ending a fruitless power play to begin the second frame the Avalanche took a penalty of their own and looked to give back any momentum gained. That is until Pierre-Edouard Bellemare surprised Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk with a well-placed shot shorthanded and put the Avalanche ahead at just 1:37 into the period.
The lead did not last long as the Wild converted on their own power play just minutes later at 4:58 from Jared Spurgeon.
But the seesaw would continue as the Avalanche got yet another power play and this time cashed in after some increased urgency. Cale Makar had been pushing the pace especially with the man advantage and bought Nathan MacKinnon enough room to shoot the puck through Gabe Landeskog’s legs at 7:22.
At this point Jared Bednar shuffled his forward lines and it didn’t take long for one of the new look combinations to pay dividends when Landeskog cleaned up on a rebound off of a J.T. Compher shot at 10:36. He had been struggling on the top line to offer many contributions lately but his strengths showed up again when he fought through traffic to find that loose rebound.
Unfortunately the Wild couldn’t let the Avalanche hang on to a two goal lead and got another power play tally from Kevin Fiala at 17:31 when he danced around three Avalanche penalty killers for the strike to cut the Avalanche lead to 3-2 after two.
To make matters worse, Nazem Kadri was lost at the end of the second period when he fell down awkwardly on a faceoff. He did take a shift early in the third period but decided against continuing. Bednar did not have an update on Kadri after the game and confirmed a lower body injury.
This game was a battle to the end and did not feature the typical conservative hold a lead type of safe play. It was a messy, physical, spirited fight to the finish with every player taking a hit or giving one to make a play. Mikko Rantanen, who has taken criticism for his play lately, put in a big effort when the Wild vacated the net for the extra attacker by chasing the puck down several times and helped prevent the Wild from getting possession and helped secure the 3-2 victory.
Cale Makar followed up a strong effort in Columbus, which was another tight checking game, with a monster performance in this contest. He played 21:31 minutes with three shots on goal and five attempts at even strength with the second highest Corsi For on the team with 61.11 percent. Makar was the catalyst for getting the power play goal with his deception and determination. Big wins for the Avalanche often coincide with a standout game from Makar.
Another Avalanche who provided an exceptional showing was Pavel Francouz who made 34 saves and stopped every shot at even strength. Francouz had not played since the game against Detroit on January 20th just before the break but looked sharp as ever and made numerous key saves. His steady presence all year will produce important depth in net into the spring.
After a successful 4-1 road trip the Avalanche will have to keep the momentum going at home with the next five games in Colorado. The schedule is very busy but with some lighter opponents and banking points are crucial this time of year.
Finally back at home for a rematch with the Ottawa Senators at 7pm MT on Tuesday.