The Colorado Avalanche rebounded from their drubbing in Minnesota Wednesday to win an ugly 2-0 game in Anaheim Friday night. The Ducks played with scrappiness and not-so-fine fashion, working the Avs hard to play to that same level.
This game was pretty messy, with no real flow to the game and no real quality chances for either side besides the one goal by the Avs in open play. With Philipp Grubauer getting the night off after a tough game Wednesday, Jonas Johansson stepped up in a big way to secure the win.
The Avs started tonight’s game with a different look in the back, with Keaton Middleton getting his first NHL game under his belt and Johansson in net for Grubauer. This was matched by a Ducks side that was playing a handful of prospects in their own squad, so the game would be slow-going to start.
The play was even, with plenty of back-and-forth rushes down the ice but never any clear-cut chances for either squad. However, a tripping penalty to Max Comtois would give the Avs a power play where they did everything but score. After a beautiful passing routine, Mikko Rantanen had a wide-open net that was remarkably saved by John Gibson.
While the power play led to nothing on the score sheet, it would push the Avs forward offensively to end the period. Despite this, it was scoreless at the break.
After an early point-blank save by Johansson, things got a little more physical between the teams. More hits were being thrown and some little scraps here and there came about. A great chance for Cale Makar breaking in behind the Ducks defense was shut down by Gibson and was by far the best chance of the night so far.
There was no real flow to the game up to this point. This included a flurry of penalties for both teams and left the Avs with a brief 5-on-3 chance that could not be converted. All the penalties were killed off and it looked to be a goaltending duel for the win.
Right afterwards, however, the Avs would break the deadlock when Tyson Jost left the puck for Ryan Graves at the top of the left circle. He slotted it to Valeri Nichushkin who snapped it over Gibson to make 1-0 before the end of the period.
After an early power play for the Ducks was killed off, the Avs were strong defensively, not giving much to the Ducks. Rantanen again had an unlucky bounce that did not go into the net, as Gibson made another lucky save. Gibson played excellent, keeping things close.
This included a goalmouth scramble that Gabriel Landeskog could not squeeze past him and lead to a big scrap behind the net. The Avs controlled play throughout to the end of the period, and an empty net goal came from Rantanen - who deserved one all night long - to kill the game off 2-0.
The biggest takeaway from this game was Johansson. He earned his second win in an Avs sweater, and his first career NHL shutout. He has looked more comfortable the more he has played, making more big and confident saves. Not only this, but he is getting comfortable playing the puck outside of his crease. Avs fans should now feel pretty comfortable with their new backup for the season.
The rest of the Western Division was in action tonight, which saw high-scoring games from the Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues. This only proves further how tough the Western Division is with these high-scoring affairs and how critical ugly games like this one are towards the push to the playoffs.
Before the game started, the Avalanche announced they had completed a trade with the Detroit Red Wings to bring back former Av Patrick Nemeth for a 2022 4th-round pick. This move by Joe Sakic adds more defense depth without risking future cap space. At this time, the Avs are missing three 1st-team D-men in Bowen Byram, Jacob MacDonald, and Erik Johnson.
While Nemeth had been part of a struggling Red Wings side, he’s been a bright spot in that struggling defense-core. He will bring leadership to the young guns who have been holding up the rear as of late. With the trade deadline coming up on Monday, it will be interesting to see what/if any other moves will be made for the Avs before the deadline.
We all know that Nemeth brings nothing on the offensive side of the puck but he’s been very good defensively for the Red Wings this season pic.twitter.com/SWxBVJhuC2— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) April 10, 2021
The Avalanche will stay in Orange County to face the Ducks one final time this season on Sunday afternoon. Puck drop is set for 4:00 PM MT.