In a wild day that saw veteran Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ian Cole traded to Honda West Division rival Minnesota Wild, the Avalanche kicked off their four-game road trip with a win against the LA Kings at Staples Center.
Long-time defenseman Erik Johnson saw his first action of the season as the Avalanche rolled with an 11F/7D lineup that also so defenseman Dennis Gilbert make his Avalanche debut.
The Avalanche came out of the gates flying in their first road game of the season. Puck possession seemed almost entirely one-sided in favor of the visiting club and LA just didn’t seem to know how to handle the high-flying Avalanche offense. At the 3:07 mark of the opening frame, their opening onslaught paid almost immediate dividends as new Avalanche forward Brandon Saad opened up the scoring.
MacKinnon stole an errant Drew Doughty pass right inside the blue line and danced his way down low dishing the biscuit from his backhand to Matt Calvert who was waiting in the middle of the circles. Calvert fired a one-timer that snuck through the pads of Kings goaltender Calvin Peterson where it momentarily sat in the crease — Brandon Saad won a battle down low with defenseman Olli Maatta and jammed in the puck for his first of the season and first in the burgundy and blue.
The tide shifted slightly in the Kings’ favor in the latter stages of the period, but overall the Avalanche dominated time of possession despite being tied in shots at nine apiece heading into the dressing room.
Aside from an early Mikko Rantanen goal that was eventually waived off for goaltender interference, the second frame was shaping up to be the Kings’ period as they flipped the script and began to pin the Avalanche in their own end for a majority of the period.
The pendulum swung back in the Avs’ favor as Kings’ forward Dustin Brown was sent to the box giving the Avs their third man-advantage of the game. After failing to convert on the first two opportunities of the game and as the clock ticked down on what was appearing to be a third failed attempt on the man-advantage, the second unit cashed in on a beautiful play between Girard and Toews.
JT Compher walked the puck into the zone and dished to Joonas Donskoi on the half-wall. Donskoi sent the puck up to Devon Toews at the right point who slid the disc across the blue line to his power play defensive partner Samuel Girard. After receiving the pass, Girard walked right down Main Street and then dropped the puck back to a trailing Toews who rocketed a slap shot off the left post and into the back the net at the 14:11 mark of the period and with only 22 seconds left on the Brown minor.
The Avalanche weren’t done just yet and within a few minutes were back on the power play. On the fourth opportunity of the evening, the first unit wasted little time in adding to the team’s lead as just eight seconds into the man-advantage Gabriel Landeskog fed the puck to Nathan MacKinnon at the goal line who sent a quick, cross-ice touch pass to Mikko Rantanen who buried a no-doubter past Peterson to give the Avs’ a 3-0 lead after two.
The Avalanche looked to be cruising to a solid win until the Kings finally got the push they had been searching for all game.
Andreas Athanasiou sniped one home on a snapshot off of dishes from Kings’ Captain Anze Kopitar and Mike Anderson.
The Kings made it a one-goal affair with 5:38 to go in the final frame when Andrian Kempe knocked in his first of the season which was a power play opportunity for LA that snapped the Avs’ perfect penalty kill streak for the season. The goal was assisted by Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty.
The Kings would pull goaltender Peterson for the extra attacker in the final stages of the game, but ultimately the good guys escape their first of two games in LA with a 3-2 win.
Despite Brandon Saad’s first period goal, the second line appeared to continue their early-season struggles as again they looked out of sync and sloppy for much of the game. Andre Burakovsky did not play in this game as he was ruled out and is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Let’s hope this line can find their groove soon.
Nathan MacKinnon’s second assist of the game counts as his 500th of his career and is the first player from the 2013 draft class to eclipse the mark. He’s also beaten everyone from the 2012 Draft, and only Nikita Kucherov from the 2011 Draft has more points than him (547).
The Avalanche’s steak of not allowing a power play goal against ended this evening on LA’s second of the night. All-in-all, the Avs’ special teams looks solid so far this season.
The Avalanche will remain in Tinsel Town and will have a rematch with this same Kings club on Thursday night (1/21) at Staples Center. Puck drop is schedule for 8:00PM MT.