As the schedule starts picking up the Colorado Avalanche needed to continue taking care of business and extend their game winning streak in order to keep climbing back into the central division standings. Enter the Anaheim Ducks who are in a rebuilding phase but have started hot and are currently in a playoff spot, which would be no easy foe. After enduring a bizarre and challenging start to the game the Avalanche found their groove and cruised to a 5-2 victory for their sixth straight win.
Ducks got on the board first on a power play at 4:58 from Sonny Milano after Darcy Kuemper lost his skate blade yet again and couldn’t get up off the ice. He has to get helped off the ice and to the dressing room to fix the situation while Johansson took the net in relief just as occurred two nights ago against Ottawa. Kuemper would eventually return after about five minutes off the game clock and retook his position back in the crease.
This distraction coupled with some early high danger chances for Anaheim this could have spelled a game where the Avalanche struggled to regain focus and momentum but luckily the Ducks could not cash in another tally. It took until the end of the period at 19:06 but Cale Makar’s hot hand continued and he fired a puck through traffic from the blue line which hit paydirt and evened the game at one apiece. This score also extended Nazem Kadri’s point streak to now ten games, which is the current longest in the NHL. After a pretty disjointed first period the Avalanche were fortunate to leave the game tied after 20 minutes.
What was already a strange situation intensified when Kuemper lost an edge heading out onto the ice for the second period and it appeared his skate broke again. At that point Johansson entered the net and stayed for the entire game. Kuemper eventually appeared on the bench and seemed ok but it was clear the net now belonged to Johansson for the night.
It didn’t take long for the Avalanche to find some early momentum in the second frame. Alex Newhook is power play gold and the sooner the Avalanche figure that out they will reap the benefits. They did just that on this particular night at 2:49 as Newhook tipped a Devon Toews shot in the high slot right after a power play expired to take the lead.
Continuing on the theme of wacky Nicolas Aube-Kubel found his second goal in an Avalanche sweater when he whiffed on a shot and it hit a Duck in the back of the skates but the puck bounced right back to him and then Aube-Kubel went high glove on John Gibson to give the Avalanche the two-goal lead at 10:25. It was a period of total dominance as the Avalanche outshot Anaheim 17-5 and scored the only two goals to take a commanding 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
The Avalanche began the third period on a 5-on-3 looking for an insurance goal and once they found it off of Kadri’s stick before the first minute had elapsed the game was all but over. In the last five minutes Val Nichushkin scored his fourth of the season to give the Avalanche their fifth goal on the board. Milano also added his second of the night on the power play to break Johansson’s shutout but he’ll just have to be happy with the win instead in a 5-2 Avalanche final.
In this current win streak there are a lot of good performances to point to especially Kadri who deserves a lot of credit for channeling the chip on his shoulder into pucks in the back of the net and just general hard working urgency in both ends of the rink. However, another key factor in the Avalanche’s success is that they are undefeated with Nichushkin in the lineup and that’s no coincidence. Since returning from a wrist injury suffered opening night Nichushkin has been his typical reliable defensive and forecheck monster self but also is really contributing on the offensive end with some wonderful passes and shots as he is now at a point-per-game in his seven contests this season.
Kurtis MacDermid drew into the lineup for the first time this season at forward replacing Kiefer Sherwood. Though he still played by far least time on ice of the team at just over six minutes the long awaited fight occurred just three minutes into the game when a staged brawl off of a faceoff occurred with frequent dance partner Nicolas Deslauriers. As the Avalanche inch closer to a healthy lineup some real roster decisions are looming as MacDermid is without much of a role despite public protests suggesting otherwise. The forced importance placed on some perceived impact of physicality which happens to sit on the bench or in the press box more often than not is bizarre to say the least.
With this victory Jared Bednar becomes the winningest head coach in Colorado Avalanche history with 194 wins passing Bob Hartley. As the Avalanche continue to get back to their game on a consistent basis and climb the standings Bednar has been a helping hand both in the current stretch of success and in the broader picture of turning the franchise around.
The first half of a weekend traveling back-to-back at the home of the Dallas Stars on Friday, November 26th at 5:30 p.m. MT.