The Avalanche outworked the Kings to a 2-0 victory Friday night. Despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise, the Avalanche were by far the better team and outclassed the Kings on both ends of the ice.
With the Avalanche having the largest shot on goal differential in the league with an average of +8.2 SOG, the Avs walloped the Kings on shots 46-18. The Avalanche have held their opponent to under 20 shots for the third straight game.
Mikko Rantanen was the most dangerous player going forward, with the game-winning goal and an unselfish assist to Nathan MacKinnon for an empty-net goal.
The Avalanche came out flying, creating numerous chances and putting the Kings behind the eight-ball. This included a power play when Carl Grundstrom went off for tripping with 14:21 left in the period, sending Gabriel Landeskog to the ice. The Avs created lots of chances, but could not convert.
The Kings had several good chances of their own, including multiple odd-man rushes behind the defense of the Avs. Nothing came to it though, as they were either shot wide or stopped by Philipp Grubauer.
Through one, the Avs saw something they are all too familiar with: a hot goalie, with Calvin Petersen saving everything the Avalanche threw at him, ending with 16 saves on 16 shots.
The Avs continued to be the top team in the second period, continuing to create chance after chance on Petersen. Finally, with 10:42 left in the frame, Mikko Rantanen wristed the puck past Petersen to make 1-0 to the good guys.
Just after the goal, Dan Renouf and Matt Luff would throw down at center ice, trading punches before wrestling to the ice and serving five minutes a piece for their scrap.
The Avalanche were by far the better team, and showing it by their shot total, outshooting the Kings 33-13 through two. However, we have seen this far too many times, where one shot can make a big difference in the game.
The Kings had a chance with this at the end of the period with a power play after Tyson Jost was called for tripping. Luckily, there was nothing much to come from it, and in fact Valeri Nichushkin had a couple of phenomenal chances shorthanded but could not convert.
After an early power play for the Avalanche, they continued to stay on top of the game, with Rantanen having several good chances that were stopped by Petersen. The first line continued to dominate, creating chance after chance. As always, Petersen continued to stop every shot.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare took a penalty for tripping with 4:30 left, giving the Kings their best chances to get back in the game. Big shot blocks by the defense and big saves by Grubauer allowed the game to be killed off on an empty-net goal by Nathan MacKinnon from Rantanen, and earn Grubauer his fourth shutout of the season.
Despite the Avalanche missing key names in defense, the Avs have suffocated their opponents offensively recently. The Avs have now had 10 straight periods of allowing less than 10 shots on their own net, not allowing anything near the netminder on a nightly basis.
Logan O’Connor continues to shine in wake of the injury to J.T. Compher. He was consistently pushing the fourth line forward offensively, leading rushes into the zone often. He even chipped in on the penalty kill, which was crucial to the win on Friday night.
The theme of the Honda West Division continued Friday night as well: hot goaltending. With Petersen returning from injury tonight, he was red-hot, stopping 45 of 46 shots on net. The Avalanche continue their theme of dominating games but not getting pucks past hot goaltenders. The Avalanche have to figure out how to put more pucks in the net past hot goaltenders to make sure games don’t come down to the wire more often.
The Avalanche will return to a snowy Ball Arena on Sunday afternoon (barring any cancellations on the amount of snow Denver receives) to once again face the Kings. Puck drop is set for 3:30 PM MT on NBCSN, after it was moved earlier on Friday from 5:00 PM MT to 3:30 PM MT.