The Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs came in to tonight’s game each looking like two of the hottest teams across the league. Only one of them performed tonight, as a newly fresh-shaved Austin Matthews recorded a hat-trick in a 8-3 rout of the Avs.
It was not pretty, as Darcy Kuemper was forced out of the game before it even started with an upper-body injury. Jonas Johansson came in on late notice. With a terrible defense in front of him, it was rough from there on out.
Toronto came out flying, when William Nylander stormed into the zone and blew one past Johansson to make it 1-0. Just three minutes later, Jason Spezza snuck one through the arm of Johansson which fluttered into the back of the net to make it 2-0 early.
The Avs had nothing for the high-flying Leafs, as the best goal of the night game from Matthew’s first. He found himself all alone in front and he maneuvered his way around to flip it over Johansson to make it 3-0.
There was hope late on for the Avs, as Samuel Girard got it at the top of the zone and got it past Jack Campbell with just a second left on the clock to make it 3-1 heading into the intermission.
Halfway through the second frame, it looked like the Avs had a chance to roar back into this game. After running the momentum of play in the second, Nazem Kadri go one past Campbell while falling on his knees. Just like that, it was 3-2 with all to play for.
Toronto came roaring out from there on out and never looked back. Travis Dermott got one back just under a minute later and made it 4-2, and four minutes later captain John Tavares would get a tally of his own to increase the lead to 5-2.
With the Avs down three, they were looking to have a miraculous comeback away from home. Unfortunately, things started out in exactly the wrong way. Matthews snuck through the defense that looked flat-footed and past Johansson for a 6-2 lead.
Matthews would finish it off from the near circle, over the shoulder of Johansson to send the hats raining down from the stands and a demoralizing 7-2 lead for the Avs.
Things only got worse for the Avs. Two minutes later, Pierre Engvall recorded his third goal of the season, only making matters worse to make it 8-2. The Avs were done at this point, only wanting to get off the ice and away from Toronto in a hurry.
Kadri recorded his 200th career goal against his former side for some sort of consolation on the power play on a simple tip in down low to make the score final, 8-3 in the end.
Tonight’s performance is hard to judge based off of a few factors. For one, the Avs had been dominant before coming into tonight and had a little different look. The return of Nathan MacKinnon was highly anticipated, in which he recorded two assists in his return. However, the loss of Ryan Murray and Kuemper before the game was detrimental and key in the loss.
With Johansson unprepared for the start tonight, he is certainly to blame for some of the goals. But more often than not, the defense left him out to try. Bowen Byram struggled all night, finding himself in the wrong spot positionally multiple times which lead to one of the eight goals tonight. They need to hit a major reset button before going at it at less than 24 hours from now in Montreal.
With Kuemper’s injury, the Avs had to rely on emergency goalie Jett Alexander to sit on the bench before Justus Annunen got to Toronto from Colorado on a late call-up. While he didn’t see any game action, he gets to tell a cool story in his college classes tomorrow. In terms of the Avs, it is unknown yet who will get the call tomorrow in Montreal. Jared Bednar will converse with Joe Sakic about it in the morning to see if Johansson will look for a boune back performance, or if Annunen will get his first career NHL start.
As mentioned plenty here, the Avs visit the Montreal Canadiens for their second game of this five game road trip and second game of this back-to-back. Puck drop is at 5 p.m. MT.