The Colorado Avalanche had gone on a seven-game win streak in the middle of March before the Arizona Coyotes spoiled their fun with a shootout loss on March 23rd.
Colorado didn’t forget that — so when they hosted Arizona for their fifth and final game of the month against the desert dogs, they made sure that they capitalized on Arizona’s precarious goaltending situation to rob the visiting Coyotes of some growing momentum in the form of a resounding, 9-3 loss to Nathan MacKinnon, Philipp Grubauer, and the rest of the high-flying Avs.
Donskoi earned his first hat trick of the season and Grubauer made 28 stops to give the Avalanche their 23rd win of the year and a push back into first in the division.
Although Arizona’s Adin Hill has been surprisingly competent for the Honda West team this year, the Avalanche pounced early in the game in an almost-comical flurry of scoring before the first period was even halfway over.
It took Joonas Donskoi just four minutes to score his first goal of the game, tallying the even-strength wrister before Arizona had even gotten a chance to take their first shot on goal:
Andre Burakovsky would manage to score less than thirty seconds later, putting the Avalanche up 2-0 before Arizona had even managed to re-set from the first goal. But the Coyotes wouldn’t stay scoreless for long — literally. In a move that should have foreshadowed the messy, chaotic game ahead of both teams, Arizona’s Michael Bunting would score on his first shot of the season and Arizona’s first of the game, ten seconds after Burakovsky’s goal to narrow the lead to just one.
Of course, that wouldn’t last long, thanks to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Although Arizona held the Avalanche off for nearly an entire minute of play after Bunting’s goal (a sentence that sounds flippant, but truly isn’t), Bellemare would tally his fifth of the year — and his third against Arizona themselves — to widen Colorado’s lead to two goals again.
Then, Donskoi decided to get back in on the action; it took him just :28 seconds on the clock after Bellemare’s goal to net his second of the night, and he’d round off his hat trick with goal number three for him (and goal number five for Colorado) at 7:31 of the first. The Avalanche had already chased Hill with Donskoi’s second, so the Finnish winger earned his hat trick in new Arizona goaltender Ivan Prosvetov’s NHL debut.
From there, the scoring was practically lethargic in comparison — but it was hardly sluggish in terms of the actual score, which saw Arizona put up a bit of a fight before losing all steam down the back stretch.
The Coyotes seemed poised to post another one of their fourteen-shot beatings at the hands of Colorado as the first period wore on, but they finally picked up the pace and fired a handful of shots at Philipp Grubuaer — who was ultimately beaten by Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson with just a minute to go in the frame.
The Coyotes would seem hell-bent on closing the scoring gap during the second period, when winger Conor Garland scored his tenth goal of the year to bring the score to 5-3 with just 2:15 left to go before intermission.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog returned fire not long after, though, widening the lead to 6-3 and giving the team a comfortable buffer once more. And from there, Arizona never seemed to find their footing again.
The third period saw a second goal apiece from Landeskog and Burakovsky, along with Mikko Rantanen’s first tally of the night, all well before the final buzzer. But what truly characterized that final frame was the melee that broke out after Nathan MacKinnon grew tired of the attention he was receiving from the antagonistic Garland for Arizona following Rantanen and Landeskog’s goals — and lost his cool so badly that he was ejected from the game. After scuffling with Garland for a quick bout, he pulled the fellow forward’s helmet off of his head and backed away to let Landeskog enter the fray. But instead of continuing to skate away, MacKinnon bafflingly decided to get back in on the action — tossing Garland’s helmet back at his head and re-engaging with him, earning himself a double minor and 10 minute game misconduct to go with Garland’s own two minute penalty.
Nathan MacKinnon got a 10-min misconduct for tossing Conor Garland's helmet at him. pic.twitter.com/HdQHogvSut— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 1, 2021
- Joonas Donskoi’s hat trick against Arizona was the second of his career, marking his fourth, fifth, and sixth goals against Arizona alone this year. It’s the second time in 2021 alone that he’s managed to record a multi-goal night against them and the third time he’s recorded a multi-point night, making them officially the team he’s been the most brutal for this year; with four points on Wednesday, he now has eight points in seven games against the desert dogs and counting. It’s a pleasant surprise to see him putting up such impressive numbers; with his prolific night, he’s up to 15 goals and 28 points on the season. That ties him for fifth on the team in scoring with Sam Girard — but more interestingly, puts him just 11 points off from his previous career high of 37. It’s possible he’ll cool down as the season winds down, but he’s close to hitting some of his best numbers yet in the shortest season he’ll have ever played. That’s particularly great for Colorado because he’s not due for a new contract until 2023. Even if this year ends up being a bit of a fluke, it’s not something they’ll have to worry about; at just $3.9 million per season, he’ll more than earn his keep.
- Given the paltry fine handed out by the league to Edmonton’s Connor McDavid earlier this week, it doesn’t seem likely that NHL Player Safety will do much to Nathan MacKinnon after his helmet toss at Arizona’s Conor Garland — but it was a foolish move by one of the team’s most vital players regardless. As pointed out on social media, Dallas defender Mark Fistric was once fined $2,500 for punching Eric Nystrom in the head with his own helmet — even though it was an accident after the helmet got tangled up in Fistric’s glove. The move was almost certainly more poor sportsmanship on MacKinnon’s part than malicious intent to injure, but it could have put the league in a tight spot if Garland had suffered an injury from the helmet to the face — and given that the throw wasn’t an accident, could have left the Avalanche potentially without one of their biggest stars if George Parros had decided to award any kind of game ban.