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Colorado Avalanche control Blues in 3-2 victory, remain top of Honda West

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The Avalanche get multi-point games from MacKinnon and Landeskog while Johansson gets his first NHL victory.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche would extend their point streak to 13 games with a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Two goals from Nathan MacKinnon combined with two assists from captain Gabriel Landeskog and a solid performance between the pipes for Jonas Johansson delivered two points to Colorado and keeps them atop the Honda West division.

Pregame

The Avalanche came into tonight’s contest on a 12 game point streak. While they may have lost their most recent contest, Colorado has been one of the hottest teams in the NHL and have ridden their point streak into a share of the lead in the Honda West division.

A late scratch for Valeri Nichushkin as well as the news that Logan O’Connor would likely miss a few weeks of time meant call ups for Liam O’Brien and Kiefer Sherwood for a new-look fourth line for Colorado.

St. Louis has been trending in the opposite direction, dropping four straight decisions. With top defender Colton Parayko out for the season, the projection for the rest of the Blues season isn’t looking great. St. Louis would come into tonight’s match-up well rested, having four days off prior to their visit to Ball Arena.

First Period

The Avalanche wouldn’t take long to put the Blues on their heels, with O’Brien marking his debut in Colorado by drawing a slashing penalty to put the Avalanche on the power play early in the first frame.

The second unit would make O’Brien’s first contribution to the team count, with Brandon Saad shoving home a rebound to give the Avalanche an early lead with his 11th of the season.

The goal was Saad’s first in eight games, but Colorado wouldn’t get to celebrate or relax for long, as St. Louis would answer back almost immediately with a goal that Johansson would probably like to have back.

Not a great response from Colorado after getting the power play goal and Johansson doesn’t cover himself in glory, giving up a short-side goal to even the game up at one goal a piece.

Shortly after the goal, Blues forward Robert Thomas takes a teammates pass off the back of his head by his ear and would leave the game. After the break in the action, the Blues would get a great scoring opportunity, with Hoffman getting one on one with Johansson, but the Swedish goaltender would be up to the task making a huge stop to keep the game knotted at one.

The next 10 or so minutes would be played in the neutral zone, with neither team having much rhythm offensively. That is until Torey Krug holds JT Compher to send the Avalanche on their second power play of the first period.

This time it would be the top unit’s turn to light the lamp, with MacKinnon showing off his hands to score an incredible spinning, backhand to forehand goal on the power play to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead.

Landeskog would assist on the goal, continuing his hot-streak and tallying his 20th assist of the season. Cale Makar would also notch his 20th assist on the MacKinnon goal.

To continue a trend for the evening, Nazem Kadri would celebrate the MacKinnon goal by taking a trip to the penalty box for a hook on former Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly. Colorado would kill this penalty off to keep the one-goal lead, with a post ringing shot from Hoffman being the only chance for St. Louis. A strong shift from the fourth line would close out the period and send the Avalanche to the locker room with a goal advantage.

Second Period

Colorado would come onto the ice with the same intensity they ended the first with, again the fourth line standing out early in the second. The Avalanche would control the first five minutes of play before heading on their third power play of the night, thanks to too many men on the ice for the Blues.

While the first unit would hit iron twice and force a strong save out of Jordan Binnington, the Avalanche power play wouldn’t create any real chances. Again, following tonight’s trend, Colorado would follow up the power play with a penalty kill; this time when Andre Burakovsky headed to the box for tripping.

Johansson would show he had settled nicely into the game on this powerplay, making a really nice pad save on a designed play from the Blues to kill the penalty and keep the one goal lead intact for the Avalanche.

Insert Nathan MacKinnon.

For the first even-strength goal of the game for Colorado, MacKinnon would blow by Marco Scandella and snipe the puck into the side netting, through Binnington’s five-hole to restore a two goal lead for the Avalanche. MacKinnon’s ability to make NHL defenders look like they’re standing still is mind-blowing. His skating, shot and work-rate on the ice are all world-class.

The end of the period would get a little nutty.

It would start with a couple broken sticks, a Makar dangle, and the Avalanche going on the power play. However, this powerplay wouldn’t last long, as Mikko Rantanen would go to the box to give the game 1:22 of four on four hockey and end the Colorado power play. During the four-on-four, Samuel Girard would try to get Makar his stick (which Makar had lost during the run of play), which would result in Colorado going on the rare four on three penalty kill.

This penalty kill would not be as sharp as Avalanche fans have become used to, with David Perron burying a goal after a slick run of play from the Blues power play to cut the Avalanche lead back to one.

The Avalanche wouldn’t be out of the woods after the Perron goal either, with another 1:24 of penalty left to kill. This time, the Avalanche penalty kill would be up to the task and deny the chance for St. Louis to even the contest at two.

The score line would hold into the intermission with Colorado outshooting St. Louis 12-5 in the period.

Third Period

The period would start much as the rest of the game was going, with Avalanche domination. While there wasn’t much action for the first 10 minutes of the period, Colorado was very much in control throughout the first 11 minutes.

In good news for St. Louis, Thomas returned to the ice after the scary puck to the head incident in the first period.

The first real chance of the period for St. Louis would come with less than five minutes left to play with Rantanen heading to the box for a blatant cross-check at center ice. This would put Colorado down a man at a crucial period in the contest. After dominating large stretches of the period and not converting, keeping the Blues out of the net would be critical for the Avalanche.

The penalty kill and Johansson would be up to the task, killing off the penalty and keeping the Avalanche in front by a goal with less than three minutes to play.

St. Louis would pull Binnington with just under two minutes left to play, still down a goal. The Blues wouldn’t be able to keep him off for long however, as Perron trips Kadri in desperation to prevent an empty net goal. This would put the Avalanche on the power play for the remainder of regulation. St. Louis would pull Binnington with 35 seconds left despite being down a man, but the Colorado defense would see out the remaining time to lock in the first career victory for Johansson.

Shots - Colorado 39 St. Louis 29
FO% - Colorado 51 St. Louis 49
PP - Colorado 2/6 St. Louis 1/5
Hits - Colorado 17 St. Louis 18
Blocks - Colorado 17 St. Louis 16

Takeaways

Johansson played very well, despite the soft first goal let in. He made a few really key saves on the penalty kill and a stand-out safe versus Hoffman on a breakaway in the first period to keep the game tied.

Landeskog and Donskoi continue their strong play. Both players made impact plays all over the ice tonight, with Landeskog in particular leaving a big impression on the result of tonight’s contest.

MacKinnon was once again dominant, scoring two goals including the game winner. What else can be said about the Avalanche super-star that hasn’t already been stated on this site? He should already be a two-time Hart award winner — and this season he will get his first.

Upcoming

These two teams will do it again tomorrow night at Ball Arena against the Blues. Philipp Grubauer figures to start in net for the Avalanche against Blues backup goaltender Ville Husso.