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Game Recap: Colorado Avalanche de-wing Anaheim Ducks 4-1.

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The Avalanche close out their season series against the Ducks with an outstanding performance from Jonas Johansson and three points from Captain Gabriel Landeskog.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Anaheim Ducks Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche end their season series with the Anaheim Ducks with a comprehensive 4-1 victory, and 6-1-1 record versus the Ducks for the year. Three points from Gabriel Landeskog and an outstanding performance by Jonas Johansson ensured the Avalanche would retain their four point gap on the Vegas Golden Knights for supremacy in the Honda West division.

The Avalanche controlled the first two periods before the series concluded with one of the most entertaining periods of the season between these two squads. As more season series start to wind down, look for the after-whistle activities to increase; a trend that would be on display throughout tonight’s contest.

Pregame

Coach Jared Bednar rode the hot hand, going with Johansson in back-to-back starts after posting a shutout in the previous matchup versus Anaheim. Otherwise the only change of note was Valeri Nichushskin and Brandon Saad swapping lines. The swap makes sense; as Nichushskin has been playing up to his lofty draft status of late and Saad has really struggled to impact the scoresheet in recent contests.

Gibson would get the start for Anaheim, who made few changes to their lineup from the previous matchup.

First Period

The Avalanche bucked their recent trend of coming out of the gates like the tortoise from the fables with a strong first period performance. Characteristic of the start was a hit by Samuel Girard at the Avalanche blue-line on Troy Terry. While it wasn’t a booming, tooth-rattling hit; it accentuates the all-around growth in Girard’s game that has some touting his Norris credentials. While naming him the best defender in the league may be premature, his growth into a legitimate top-pair defender has mimicked the club’s rise into a premier defensive unit. One that comes into the game with the second fewest goals against in the league. Like Girard, the Avalanche defense doesn’t have the reputation, but results make the case that this defense may be the best in the league.

Why make this long analogy between Girard and the Avalanche defense? Because the first period of this game was pretty uneventful.

Nearly eight minutes into the period Andre Burakovsky pounced on a loose puck and gave the Avalanche the lead.

It was a great shot by Burakovsky to beat Gibson and awesome awareness to get the loose puck. Almost immediately after the goal was scored Johansson was forced to make a nice save to keep the lead from instantly evaporating.

Liam O’Brien fought perpetual thorn Nicolas Deslauriers moments later to earn both players five minutes to think about their actions.

And that was about it...

The Avalanche controlled the entirety of the period and went to the locker room with a well earned lead, but Anaheim really didn’t do much to test Johansson or the Colorado defense throughout the first frame. Gibson would be forced to make a number of difficult saves towards the end of the period as the Colorado offense started generating high volumes of chances, but none seemed to really trouble the Ducks netminder; minus the terrific snipe from Burakovsky that gave the Avalanche the lead.

Second Period

Penalties defined the second frame of the game. After a first period where zero minor penalties were assessed, the referee crew made up for that oversight by nailing both teams with a combined six.

The Avalanche would be first to go on the back foot, with Cale Makar taking an interference call. However the first real impact came while the Ducks were defending their first penalty of the night. Max Jones took a tripping penalty to put Anaheim down two skaters. A well rested first Colorado power play unit took full advantage of the minute of five on three awarded to them.

That right there is a typical Landeskog power play goal for you. The Avalanche captain put the team up by two with a minute of power play still remaining with his deflection off a MacKinnon shot.

Unfortunately, Colorado could not extend their lead with the time left on the penalty, nor on the next man advantage. The Ducks did a really good job five on four throughout the evening, preventing good shots on Gibson despite heavy Avalanche pressure and control.

Gibson had a tremendous second period; making highlight reel saves to keep Anaheim from getting their doors blown off. While Anaheim were better, they still were the obvious lesser of the two teams on the ice throughout the period in the second.

Third Period

Anaheim came out in the third period much sharper than in the previous two frames. Unfortunately for Ducks fans; their lack of firepower meant that Anaheim didn’t convert their solid play into much offense in the first half of the third period. Both Gibson and Johansson traded highlight reel saves in those ten minutes, keeping the score at 2-0.

After a scuffle that sent both Jones and Jost to the penalty box; the Ducks finally broke through with rookie defender Jamie Drysdale netting his second career NHL goal on a deflected shot from the point.

With the shot deflecting off Makar, there was nothing Johansson could do. It was hard-luck to lose the shutout on that kind of goal, but the puck luck was repaid almost instantly. The window the Ducks had opened to get back into tonight’s contest quickly slammed closed.

Ryan Graves gets his first of the season on a strange answer to the equally odd Drysdale goal. The Avalanche weren’t done scoring, with Makar making an absolutely millimeter-perfect pass to a streaking MacKinnon who merely had to turn the pass into the net for his 16th of the season.

The vision shown on that pass is incredible. Landeskog got the secondary assist on the MacKinnon goal to tally his third point of the evening.

An incident involving JT Compher, multiple cross-checks, a slash and both teams coming together capped off the final meeting between these two teams. Sam Carrick got a game misconduct for his targeting of Compher and put the Avalanche on the powerplay to cement the victory.

Statistics

Shots - COL 37 ANA 25

Faceoff % - COL 50 ANA 50

Power Play - COL 1/4 ANA 0/2

Hits - COL 20 ANA 24

Blocks - COL 12 ANA 19

Takeaways

Colorado played an outstanding game to end their mini-funk. Instead of having to claw back from a deficit or get a shutout from their goaltender, the Avalanche jumped on the Ducks early and responded when Anaheim tried to get back into the game in the third. Good teams take care of the games they should win, and this is a game the Avalanche took care of.

Valeri Nichushkin and Tyson Jost both played extremely well tonight. Nichushskin is showing why he was such a highly regarded prospect and is one of the best defensive forwards in the league. Jost has added an ability to drive play for a line as the third center that got him an assist and a couple chances that could’ve been goals if not for Gibson’s goaltending.

While Gibson was good for Anaheim in net, Johansson was stellar. The only goal given up was a fluky deflected puck that Johansson had no chance on. Every other puck he saw, he stopped. Devan Dubnyk might want to get used to life on the practice squad if the young Swede can keep playing like this.

Finally, good riddance to games with the Anaheim Ducks. Troy Terry is pretty decent. Drysdale is going to be really good, Trevor Zegras probably will be too. But the Ducks aren’t fun to watch play, nor are they very good. Watching guys like Deslauriers and Carrick goon it up against the best players on each opposing team isn’t entertaining hockey and could very well cost a team a chance at the Stanley Cup is a key player gets injured by their buffoonery. Also, the black/orange/gold uniforms are terrible. Bring back the green at least; if not the whole “Mighty Ducks” aesthetic because the webbed foot needs to be relegated back to a shoulder patch.

Upcoming

Colorado (28-9-4) hop on a plane back home to host the Arizona Coyotes (19-18-5) for the final time of the regular season. It’s likely that Philipp Grubauer will return to take on Arizona, but there is also a chance that Dubnyk makes his Avalanche debut on Monday. The Avalanche are 5-1-1 against the Coyotes this season.

The Ducks (12-22-7) will take a trip to San Jose to take on the Sharks (18-18-4).