It had been 18 days since the Colorado Avalanche played a game at home in Ball Arena and even that was a quick stop on the second night of a back-to-back after a four game road trip. Faced with eight games against non-playoff bound opponents to close out the regular season the Avalanche needed to re-establish their brand of hockey and they did just that getting back on track with a 3-0 shutout win against the San Jose Sharks. All was not positive, however, as both Ryan Graves and Sam Girard both exited the game and did not return.
Jared Bednar has decided to play coy with the lineup from this point forward but all of Philipp Grubauer, Joonas Donskoi and Mikko Rantanen drew back in after their stints on the COVID-19 protocol list. The Avalanche were playing with closer to their full team and it showed.
Two quick power play goals was just what the doctor ordered. First from Gabe Landeskog at 11:13 as he tipped Cale Makar’s shot right at the net front past Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.
Then Makar wired home the second one for his own tally exactly two minutes later. The Avalanche finally grasped what had eluded them all week which was control of the game and a 2-0 lead after the first period.
Neither team scored in the second period but the Avalanche held a 25-14 shot lead in addition to the two goals on the scoreboard.
The third period should have been an uneventful cruise to the finish line but unfortunately was not the case. That aforementioned fortified lineup would take a massive blow as the Avalanche lost both Ryan Graves and Sam Girard in this game. Graves took an elbow to the face in the first period and did not return while Girard was pushed while off balance by Kevin Labanc and fell hard into the boards catching his right leg underneath him. Nathan MacKinnon then took exception to the hit and fought Labanc.
Nathan MacKinnon dropped the gloves with Kevin Labanc. pic.twitter.com/Flv8Xm8eup— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 1, 2021
San Jose scored on their power play as MacKinnon was dinged the extra two minutes for roughing but Bednar challenged for an offside play and won thus preserving Philipp Grubauer’s 21 save shutout in his return to the lineup. Mikko Rantanen had a three-point evening in his return and also added an empty net goal for the third score of the game and a 3-0 final for the Avalanche.
First and foremost the health of both Ryan Graves and Sam Girard are a major concern. Bednar predictably did not have any update on them after the game. The quick turn around to another game tomorrow night and then an upcoming five-game road trip will make it difficult to find out information or the next course of action. The blueline which was already missing Bowen Byram and Jacob MacDonald, plus Erik Johnson long term, is going to look a lot like the Colorado Eagles coming up with hopes and prayers for a speedy recovery to any of the missing regular defensemen.
Nathan MacKinnon saw his 15-game point streak come to an end in this contest despite being on the ice for both power play goals. Partially as a result of the fight and also not hitting the ice past the halfway part of the third period MacKinnon saw one of his other streaks end, which was 263 consecutive games with a shot on goal. He only attempted one shot the entire night at all strengths which is very uncharacteristic for him and thus both streaks are now over.
Another game tomorrow night back-to-back against the same Sharks at 6pm MT.