After three straight games of putting up a touchdown on the scoreboard the Colorado Avalanche were faced with a tough task to continue that type of production against the team with currently the best record in the league in the Florida Panthers. Unfortunately another theme would continue for the Avalanche as they lost yet another player to injury and Gabe Landeskog was replaced by Mikhail Maltsev in the lineup.
It didn’t take long for this game to feel unfamiliar, as a tight-checking contest between two good teams. Shots were even at nine apiece and scoreless after 20 minutes of play despite each team drawing a power play. Jack Johnson took a puck to the face and had to leave for repairs but later returned.
What was an intense and physical game between two top teams turned ugly when Jacob MacDonald was knocked out by another shoulder-to-head shot and was stretchered off the ice. Many opinions seem to lean toward legal as the player’s head was down but the key is where the point of contact is. The top of the shoulder launching into the head is not exactly incidental yet goes uncalled. Regardless these hits keep happening and to many unfortunate results. Nicolas Aube-Kubel stepped in to defend MacDonald after the incident as well. Early indications after the game were that MacDonald avoided the worst and was able to remain at the arena.
Ryan Lomberg with a massive hit on Jacob MacDonald. Hoping he’s okay— Everything Hockey (@EHClothing) December 13, 2021
The Avalanche finally got on the board late in the second period courtesy of Andre Burakovsky on the power play at 19:37 off of a great feed from Mikko Rantanen. Burakovsky was just getting warmed up as he scored again just over two minutes into the third period to give the Avalanche a two-goal lead.
As they have shown multiples times this season, the Panthers are never out of a game and they made up the two-goal deficit to tie the game. Joe Thornton got the first one on their own power play at 7:41 and not long after Brandon Montour converted the second goal at 10:15. But Burakovsky had one more goal in his bag of tricks and scored his first career hat trick at 11:43 for his fifth goal in the last two games.
Three goals was all the Avalanche would need this evening as Kuemper held the fort while making 29 saves. A lot of diving blocks in the crease from the likes of Erik Johnson helped seal up the victory as the Panthers tried to get the equalizer on a 6v4 to close out the game but came up just short. A 3-2 final for the Avalanche and also suddenly their fourth win in a row.
After several weeks of uneven performances against middling at best teams it was refreshing to witness a real battle between evenly matched teams with both offensive and defensive ability. The best part was the Avalanche prevailed and showed themselves what a hard physical battle is and overcoming that type of opponent takes. It was the top line picking up all the points but a good team effort top to bottom was needed to win this type of game.
Mikhail Maltsev looked good in a brief six minutes of ice time by creating several scoring chances, had a strong analytic game in a small sample size but also took a third period penalty. Hopefully the plan is to give him a long look as someone who can provide bottom six depth on a regular basis as the Avalanche need to figure out if Maltsev can be an asset for them with his Entry Level Contract expiring this summer.
Conversely the clock has just about struck midnight on Kurtis MacDermid. Once again he barely saw the ice with just six shifts and 3:24 of time on ice. Considering Jack Johnson missed a good chunk of time getting stitched up and then MacDonald left the game and yet his services were not needed on defense speaks volumes. MacDermid can get hidden easier in the lineup at forward but with the injury crisis continuing and a lot tougher schedule coming up the Avalanche can’t afford to keep a player in theory with imaginary impact on the roster and in the lineup.
One final game on the home stand in a rematch with the New York Rangers on Tuesday, December 14th at 7 p.m. MT.
Also, FYI for those that don’t tweet, drop any questions you may have for the prospects mailbag in the comments and I’ll try to get to them.