The Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes met for the second time in 24 hours with the Avs looking to get another two points from the bottom feeders of the Central Division. They would do just that in a complete 5-0 shutout victory in the desert Saturday night.
Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each ended with two goals on the night to lead the way. Darcy Kuemper was good when called upon, and built up some confidence back with the win and return to his former side for his first shutout in an Avs sweater and the first of the season. Jared Bednar should be very happy with his teams performance on the night.
After an early Andre Burakovsky chance on Karel Vejmelka, chances were hard to come by. You could tell players were trying to find their legs after playing just 24 hours ago.
Penalties became a factor, as Phil Kessel and Rantanen each had penalties to give to the other team, but the Avs found themselves in prime position after MacKinnon was slashed and Nazem Kadri was high sticked.
It would be MacKinnon who worked in all alone from the right boards down to the blue paint and forced it past Vejmelka as the 5-on-3 expired. Regardless, it was a good power play goal to give the Avs the lead.
Cale Makar and MacKinnon helped stop a breakaway for the Coyotes and had to kill off a Kurtis MacDermid cross-checking penalty before heading into the break with the advantage.
The first half of the second period was not that entertaining, with neither side finding any good chances in the zone. The one big opportunity the Avs had was on a 2-on-1 with Gabriel Landeskog and Sam Girard. After exchanging a couple of passes, Vejmelka moved from left to right and robbed Landeskog of a goal on his return to the ice.
The Avs eventually poured it on though and the floodgates opened. First, Rantanen found the loose puck behind Vejmelka as a MacKinnon shot snuck through him. He put it home and doubled the Avs lead.
Just seconds later, Kadri picked up a turnover in the offensive zone thanks to a great forecheck from Valeri Nichushkin. He pulled a nifty move to get around Vejmelka and slide it into a gaping net and extend the lead to 3-0.
Rantanen got his second of the game, and third point of the match on a 2-on-1 going five-hole on Vejmelka. He did not disappoint, and it was all Avs now with the 4-0 advantage.
Darcy Kuemper was tested a few times at the end of the period, making some good saves when he needed to, including a breakaway and a goalmouth scramble. Burakovsky and Jack Johnson roughed up some Coyotes in the blue paint. A cool head was all that was needed to wrap it up in the third period.
The third period felt like molasses as Marc Moser would say on the commentary. Not much really happened for either side. Kuemper made a good shoulder save about five minutes in, continuing his solid form in the game.
While the action on the ice had seceded a bit, the crowd at Gila River Arena was living life - specifically the Avs fans. It almost felt like another home game, with “Let’s Go Avalanche” chants raining down and a loud singing of “Mr. Brightside” was performed beforehand. If only “All the Small Things” was played at one point in the period.
Kuemper continued to make some solid saves to keep the shutout alive against his former team. It was all Avs in control, including in physical play when Makar laid out Antoine Roussel along the boards to get the crowd going. MacKinnon tacked on one more goal for good measure to close it out 5-0 for the Avs in the closing seconds (click the arrow on post to see the video).
Kuemper should be feeling great after getting a shutout tonight. He needed this confidence booster after some hard plays earlier in the week. While yes it is the Arizona Coyotes, making saves and finding a rhythm will hopefully get him going to carry on some dominant performances down the stretch in the tough, big games.
Rantanen had a great performance tonight, ending up with three points with two goals and an assist. He came up big tonight to lead the team and bring them to victory. It’s unfortunate that he isn’t even being considered for the All-Star Game in February. He is the sixth leading point getter in the league and shows the amount of talent the Avs had. They sure could take over the All-Star Game in Vegas if the rules allowed them to.
With the win, the Avs get to 51 points and into a tie for first place in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators. But, they are the leaders thanks to a great winning percentage by the Avs. When the Avs are caught up in games played they will be in the drivers seat in the Central Division, which will make all Avalanche fans happy to be up at the top.
The Avalanche will celebrate MLK Day on Monday on home ice in a big division rivalry game against the Minnesota Wild. It will be a matinee affair with puck drop at 1:00 p.m. MT