There wasn’t much time for the Colorado Avalanche to enjoy their Saturday night victory over the Minnesota Wild because they needed to prepare for a rematch less than 24 hours later. Their exploding injury list is also becoming an even greater factor in this season as Erik Johnson was the latest mainstay to miss a game and then Nathan MacKinnon mysteriously disappeared before the third period in this eventual 4-3 overtime loss.
Two depleted lineups facing each other is what the first period looked like with the Avalanche cashing in first. Joonas Donskoi scored his fifth goal of the year at 4:33 on a great pass from Nathan MacKinnon. However the Avalanche should have been up by three in the game because MacKinnon and Andre Burakovsky missed wide open nets.
The Wild evened the score late at 16:16 when Jordan Greenway found a loose rebound and put the puck past Hunter Miska. The score was 1-1 after the first and shots favored the Wild 10-8.
In the second period it was the Wild who struck first just over a minute into the period. Victor Rask took advantage of confused coverage as he was wide open to take the shot.
And then Cale Makar happened.
Scoring his first, and possibly the nicest, goal on the year at 3:38 which was a beautiful move and cut into the slot to just rifle the puck past Cam Talbot with his patented wrist shot.
Brandon Saad put the Avalanche ahead in the third period at 7:09 for his fifth goal of the season on a nice transition rush and pass from Nazem Kadri. Unfortunately again Victor Rask answered back at 12:34 to even the score at 3-3.
The Avalanche held on for overtime but were beat on their first shift and 18 seconds in Jonas Brodin found the back of the net to secure the 4-3 victory for the home team. Kadri did not check well on the wall and Gabe Landeskog continued his poor outing in what was a quick conversion for the Wild.
While the Avalanche gutted it out through a poor game in stretches to grab a point and three out of four in their road trip to Minnesota, major concerns loom on the horizon. Nathan MacKinnon didn’t play the third period and then the team subsequently announced a lower body injury but no issue was obvious with him at the end of the second period. Naturally, Jared Bednar had no further information to give after the game. Adding another potential absence on top of Devon Toews, Erik Johnson, Matt Calvert, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Pavel Francouz will test the limits of the team.
The Avalanche had to play with only 17 skaters dressed because they didn’t have enough cap space to utilize 12 forwards and opted to go with recent taxi squad call-up Jacob MacDonald on the backend as an extra defenseman instead. As a result Cale Makar and Sam Girard played 28 and 26 minutes respectively. Bowen Byram who played in his seventh game triggering the first year of his ELC saw 20 minutes himself and the trio could be in for a heavy work load moving forward.
Hunter Miska did his job well enough in his second career NHL start to earn the Avalanche a point but he was serving up a lot of rebounds and was beat clean several times on shots. Adam Werner has been on the taxi squad with the team for several weeks now and though he is inexperienced himself he does have one NHL win to his credit and begs the question if he is considered an option while Francouz continues to heal.
Another concern to watch is Wild forward Marcus Foligno was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list prior to this game. With Minnesota scheduled to travel to Denver for the second half of the series it will be critical that they’ve avoided an outbreak to keep those games on schedule. Both teams are massively shorthanded and will hopefully complete this four game series the best they can.
The third game in the series against the Wild is a return home to Colorado at 6:30pm MT on Tuesday, February 2nd.