Heading into this game the Colorado Avalanche had won a franchise record eight straight road games and looking to add another to the streak. The struggling Detroit Red Wings were in their sights but several injury updates right before game time made this matchup more difficult than it presented on paper.
Cale Makar was a late scratch despite his absence in warmup evading all in attendance with the official word as day-to-day with an upper body injury. Valeri Nichushkin was questionable and left off the lineup the Avalanche provided but he was indeed able to play. Andre Burakovsky remains status quo and out for this contest.
The Avalanche keep fighting through adversity with a patchwork roster and took care of business for their 40th win on the season in a 2-1 final in Detroit.
It was not the start the Avalanche wanted as they gave up the first goal. Anthony Mantha deposited a loose puck through some equally lax defense and Detroit took an early lead at 5:48.
The Avalanche were not done, however. Despite two ineffective power plays they got the equalizer from Vladislav Namestnikov scoring his first goal as an Avalanche at 12:50. Some great board work from Martin Kaut and Val Nichushkin led to a Ryan Graves point shot which snuck through Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier and Namestnikov was parked in the crease. He managed to kick the puck just barely to his stick blade for a good goal.
At 14:31 of the second period the stalemate was broken when Gabe Landeskog absorbed an enormous hit at his own blue line to send Logan O’Connor on a breakaway and he converted with a quick wrist shot.
That was all the scoring was needed to secure the victory and the two points in the western conference race. Detroit played with a lot of determination in this game and did not make it easy on the Avalanche. A full team effort was needed, even if execution was sloppy at times, and they prevailed.
It was the first start for Michael Hutchinson since his trade to Colorado, on his 30th birthday no less, and he held up to the task. It took a little while for him to warm up in the game but by the third period made numerous key saves to keep the score at 2-1. Final tally was 17 saves and a much needed night off for Pavel Francouz.
With a fluid lineup which has been changing nightly it has been tough to find chemistry and consistency with the forward lines. Tonight the Avalanche may have found a winner in the Nichushkin-Jost-Kaut combination who were an 89% Corsi For trio with just over seven even-strength minutes together. Kaut just himself only saw one shot attempt against in almost nine minutes at 5v5 and a 93% Corsi For. He was strong on the puck and boards all night with good defense and also got a scoring chance on a backhander late in the third period. Kaut’s contributions have been impactful in his seven NHL games — all wins.
The penalty kill was perfect in this game stopping all four Detroit man advantages including a brief 5-on-3. After struggling for much of the season the penalty kill has rebounded for a stretch with 22 consecutive kills over the last nine games. The ability to reduce goals against has been very critical with the missing firepower in the lineup and dampened goal scoring.
A brief stop in Denver to take on the Anaheim Ducks before continuing west on the road. Puck drop is on Wednesday at 7:30pm MT on NBCSN.