March 18th, 2021 should be a folklore in Avalanche history.
After hearing the news of fans returning to the stands in April and the return of young defensemen to the lineup, the Avalanche played a statement game, defeating the Wild by the final score of 5-1 on Thursday night. Mikko Rantanen was a part of four of those tallies, with 2G and 2A and his 11th multi-point game of the season, tied for the most multi-point games in the West.
The top line was the biggest part of the offense moving forward, scoring four of the five goals tonight. The entire team came together with a high-flying offense and incredibly solid defense to earn a team win against a highly contested division rival.
With the win, the Avalanche move past the Wild in the standings up to second place with 38 points, trailing the Golden Knights by three points for the top spot in the West.
The Avalanche came out of the room soaring, creating chance after chance going forward. This was highlighted by a power play which saw eight shots on goal but no conversion. The goal would come not much longer, with Nathan MacKinnon shimmying around a Wild defender and deflecting it off a stick and through the armor of Cam Talbot to make it 1-0.
There were chances galore for the Avs, who continued to push the issue on the Wild’s defense. It was a ridiculously fast moving and incredible first period. The Wild’s best chances came on a power-play chance, but it lead to another first line goal when MacKinnon flew into the zone, handing it off to Samuel Girard. Girard then shot it through the slot to have Rantanen smash it in on the far post to make it 2-0 heading into the room. The Avs absolutely dominated, ending the period with a 25-6 shot advantage.
The Avalanche continued to keep up the pressure, with great chances to start. Minnesota could not get anything going forward and was heavily relying on Talbot, who continued to make big saves to keep the Wild in it. A power play for the Wild would see Victor Rask snipe one over the glove of Phillip Grubauer to make it a 2-1 game.
The Wild got a talking to during the intermission, and showed up for the second, getting more chances as the time passed. They did lose Matt Dumba however, who went flying into the boards chasing Logan O’Connor. He did not return to the game.
After a scrum in the Avalanche crease, the Avs got a power play that lead to Gabriel Landeskog pounding the puck past Talbot at the near post to make it a 3-1 lead heading into the break. Colorado continued to dominate in the shot total, with a 45-13 advantage.
The Wild were a no-show for the third period. They could not get anything going at all going forward, with the defense suffocating the Wild moving forward. It also didn’t help for the Wild when they gave it away in the neutral zone for Joonas Donskoi who flew in to make it 4-1 with 18:03 left.
The best goal of the night was the last one, where Rantanen tipped it around Nico Sturm with incredible hand-eye coordination out of mid-air and then a tight-angle backhand over Talbot to make it 5-1.
The Avalanche didn’t drop a single shift all night and were relentless. A late power play to the Wild would not change this either, as the Avalanche completely outplayed the Wild to a 5-1 victory.
The return of Cale Makar and Bowen Byram from injuries completely changed the team. With fresh legs, they lead the team going forward, with themselves and other D-men jumping into the play consistently. The power play was even more successful with Makar involved, just simply moving the puck so well because of him in the lineup.
Logan O’Connor, while not registering a point, quietly played a phenomenal game on the fourth line. He lead the team with five shots on goal at one point in the game and continues to be a hard-working team member. With the trade deadline approaching, you have to wonder if Joe Sakic might move J.T. Compher to keep LOC in his lineup based on how good his play has been in J.T’s absence.
With a well-rounded team victory, this team has very much come alive. This team should scare the rest of the league when everyone is back to full health. The team is sending off strong 2000/01 vibes with this win on Thursday night, and we all know the end result of that season. Just sayin’.
The Avalanche and Wild will face off once again in a Saturday afternoon matchup at Ball Arena. The Wild will be playing angry after being severely outworked and looking to come out strong on Saturday. Puck drop is set for 1:00 PM MT.