All foes have become familiar at this point in this unique season but perhaps none more than the Minnesota Wild. The Colorado Avalanche hoped to take their successful show on the road as they entered the final series of the season with a longtime rival. Though they battled through adversity for stretches in this game the Avalanche ended up victorious in a 5-4 score and fifth straight win.
A bit of a wake up call to start this game as the Wild drew the first penalty and while they didn’t score on the man advantage Minnesota drew first blood shortly after when Ryan Hartman took advantage of a lax Avalanche defensive effort at 8:40. The visitors found a couple chances in the offensive zone but the period ended favoring Minnesota 1-0 on the scoreboard and in shots 10-6.
As good as the Wild could have felt about a lead after the first period the Avalanche showed why they have been playing on another level for the past month as they scored two quick goals to completely turn the game around.
First up, less than 20 second into the second period Nathan MacKinnon received a brilliant feed from Samuel Girard in the neutral zone and then used his speed to get separation and then perfectly placed the puck behind Wild goaltender Cam Talbot.
Just a minute later Andre Burakovsky deposited a shot from Girard on a juicy rebound for Colorado’s second score of the evening. That goal gave Girard 30 points on the season in just 36 games and he is now among the top five in scoring for defensemen in the NHL.
The Wild settled the bulk of the second period down but the Avalanche kept the pressure simmering until Brandon Saad found some garbage in front of the net at 15:48 after getting away with a cross check for the team’s third score.
And just like the earlier tallies in the period which came in a pair, the second consecutive goal followed as soon as two minutes later on a JT Compher deflected rocket of a shot from Cale Makar. Despite receiving no power plays again in the second frame the Avalanche outshot the Wild 20-5 and took a commanding 4-1 lead into the final 20 minutes of play.
The Avalanche thought they could continue to get away with the AHL tryout camp on their third pair defense whilst waiting for Bowen Byram to return to the lineup but got burned getting a little too cute. A 25-year old career AHLer Kyle Burroughs was inserted into the lineup for his NHL debut and combined with a still green himself Jacob MacDonald did not handle a Wild counter attack and rush chance very well as at 3:35 Nick Bjugstad found a rebound and wide open cage to easily cash in Minnesota’s second goal of the evening.
Momentum didn’t last long for the Wild once the Avalanche finally got a couple power plays they were owed from earlier and eventually converted on one to create that three goal cushion again. The members of the top line all contributed on Gabe Landeskog’s 15th goal of the season at 7:22.
The Wild still wouldn’t go down without a fight as they finally got their own power play goal at 8:44 from Marcus Johansson. For some reason Philipp Grubauer started greatly overplaying shots against in this period and it burned him again. Kevin Fiala made things way too interesting at 19:25 with the goaltender pulled on a final power play for the Wild’s 4th goal but the Avalanche held on for a 5-4 victory.
It has been a phenomenal month for the Avalanche who have not lost in regulation since March 8th. At times the game looks easy for the Avalanche as it did in the second period of this game. On the other hand battles like the first and third period displayed feel like a foreshadowing to things come of how the rest of the season and playoffs are going to take on a new level of physicality and intensity. The Avalanche have held up well thus far and are still racking up wins despite all the pushback they have to endure.
In other news the Avalanche signed Nathan Clurman who was their sixth round draft selection in 2016. His Entry Level Contract runs two years because of his age (22) and will begin in the 2021-22 season. In the meantime Clurman will finish the rest of the year with the Colorado Eagles on a tryout agreement.
The final regular season meeting in Minnesota against the Wild on Wednesday, April 7th at 7pm MT.