With Nathan MacKinnon, Devon Toews and Erik Johnson - among others - out of the lineup with injuries, the Colorado Avalanche returned home to take on the Minnesota Wild for the third game of their four game series.
Missing one of the best offensive players in the NHL, the Avs relied on their defense and goaltending in this one. Cale Makar and Samuel Girard led the way with 26 minutes of ice time apiece while Philipp Grubauer showed why there is no need to doubt the goaltending in Colorado. The Avs starter stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced as he led the team to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
Colorado was able to beat Minnesota at their own game as they got out to a lead and then shut things down the rest of the way. The Avalanche only gave up five high-danger scoring chances against all night with only two coming in the final 40 minutes.
This was a strong team win and the way the Avalanche are going to need to play while they wait for the injured players to work their way back into the lineup.
The game started off somewhat slowly as both teams were able to kill off a penalty in the opening ten minutes.
After a bunch of back and forth play, it was the fourth line that finally got the Avalanche on the board when Logan O’Connor finally got one past Cam Talbot.
O’Connor was able to bang a backhand home with a little more than two minutes left in the period to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.
After a quiet first few minutes of the period, O’Connor went to the penalty box after the Avs goal scorer got his stick up high on Ryan Suter. The Avs continued their strong shorthanded play as they were able to kill off the penalty without giving up a shot on net.
The penalty kill seemed to spark the Avs as they were able get some sustained pressure for the next few minutes. Then, with a little over seven minutes elapsed in the period, Val Nichushkin was able to bat home a loose rebound to extend the Avalanche lead to 2-0. It was the big winger’s second goal of the season with the lone assist going to Joonas Donskoi.
After Kyle Rau caught Cale Makar with a big hit against the boards, J.T. Compher jumped in to help his teammate. Unfortunately, the ensuing fight left the Avalanche shorthanded when Compher was assessed the extra penalty for instigating. The Wild capitalized on the powerplay as Kirill Kaprizov was able to beat Grubauer. The rookie’s third goal in the NHL cut the Avs’ lead to 2-1.
The goal helped Minnesota gain some momentum as they continued to put on the pressure for the remainder of the period. The Avalanche were lucky to go into the second intermission clinging onto their one goal lead.
The Avalanche were given a powerplay early in the period but they were unable to use the man advantage to extend their lead. With MacKinnon out of the lineup to carry possession, the Avs PP had all kinds of trouble transitioning play into the offensive zone.
After that, there wasn’t much going on beyond some solid goaltending by Grubauer. The closest Minnesota would come to tying the game up came when Carson Soucy hit the side of a wide open net from point blank range with a little under three minutes remaining.
Thanks to their goalie, the Avalanche were able to hang on for a hard fought 2-1 win to move back into a tie for first place in the West Division.
- Mikko Rantanen deserved a goal tonight, he was flying.
- Jacob MacDonald and Bo Byram began to be sheltered as the game went along as the two newcomers each finished with a little over 15 minutes of game action.
- Cale Makar is getting better every game - and that should scare the crap out of the NHL.
- Nazem Kadri and Brandon Saad are starting to build some really nice chemistry together.
- Philipp Grubauer is an elite NHL goaltender. They didn’t score tonight but the duo - Saad in particular - created a few very dangerous offensive chances.
- Jordan Greenway is going to be a huge pain in the ass to play against for a long time. That kid is a good one.
- The power play goal from Minnesota in the second period snapped a streak of 24 killed penalties in a row by the Avs.
- The Avs are going to need to go shopping for a center, Compher simply isn’t good enough to play as big a role as the team is asking him to right now.
One more against the Wild on Thursday night.