The Colorado Avalanche went to a shootout for the second home game in a row but came out on top once again in a chaotic 4-3 win Monday afternoon. In a building filled with as many Minnesota Wild fans as Avs fans, the Avs had more to cheer about once the final horn sounded.
The Central Division rivalry lived on in the matchup, with physicality coming into play, a fight between Jordan Greenway and Kurtis MacDermid after Darcy Kuemper was injured, and a huge two points for the Avs in the end to take them up solely in the lead of the Central Division.
It was a goaltending duel to start, as both Kaapo Kahkonen and Kuemper were each making solid saves in their ends. The Avs certainly had the better chances though, as Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had shots find the iron.
It got physical too, as Erik Johnson laid a few hits in the defensive end. When the Wild got physical, they drew penalties. A high sticking penalty by Brandon Duhaime and a hooking penalty by Ryan Hartman got the Avs a golden 5-on-3 power play for just under two minutes.
They would capitalize as Rantanen collected a shot off the end boards. He bounced it off the backside of Kahkonen and into the net to give the Avs a 1-0 lead.
With time still on the power play, the second unit played their part as well. As the man advantage expired, Alex Newhook set himself up in the slot between the circles and slotted one home on the one-timer to make it 2-0.
The Avs weren’t done yet, and looked to pile it on on the Wild. Rantanen was stopped on a 2-on-1 with Gabriel Landeskog in the last minute beautifully. Kahkonen was standing on his head and the only reason the score wasn’t more than 2-0 after one.
An early chance for Andre Burakovsky proved vital for the Wild, as Kevin Fiala picked up the loose puck and took it in himself in the opening seconds to cut the lead in half 2-1.
It would be the only goal of the frame, but certainly not the only action we saw. After a couple of penalties for each side was killed off, Greenway cut through the blue paint and clipped Kuemper in a dirty fashion. Kuemper went down hurt, and MacDermid made sure to rearrange some facial features of Greenway in a big heavyweight fight.
MacDermid got two for instigating and five for fighting, and Greenway got five for fighting and two for goaltending interference. After a minute on the ice, the concussion spotter in the arena pulled Kuemper out of the game for concussion protocol. Pavel Francouz came in for relief and Kuemper would not return to the game or the bench.
The weirdness continued in the period. Cale Makar came out flying, wanting to get himself on the score sheet with several slap shots from the point along with a beautiful move to create a 2-on-1 that couldn’t find the net. The puck also found its way under Ryan Hartman from an Erik Johnson shot, who decided to take a nap on it and earn himself a delay of game penalty.
Minnesota tested Francouz who came out cold in the end of the period. He had several flurries of action in front of him in a period-ending power play for the Wild. He ended up on his backside and made some huge saves in the dying seconds to keep his teams one goal lead in what would be a heck of a third period.
After killing off the penalty from the second period, there was more penalty trouble for both sides. Foligno and MacKinnon took matching penalties, and Kirill Kaprizov equalized with a one-timer from a wild angle off the glove of Francouz to tie it at two.
The Wild were controlling play from here on out. They had chances galore on Francouz and kept the Avs pinned in their own zone. There was another matching penalty with Rantanen and Goligoski who sold an interference penalty.
The Avs had chances too but it seemed that the Wild were blocking every shot. With 3:32 left in the period, the first line steamed down the ice and with some beautiful tic-tac-toe passing found MacKinnon down low who stuffed into the left pad of Kahkonen.
After initially being ruled no goal, the puck under the pad of Kahkonen had slid into the back of the net. While not visible, it was clear that the puck could’ve only gone in from there after the whistle was blown dead. After a long review, the right call was finally made and the Avs had a late 3-2 lead.
It wouldn’t be over there though. Kaprizov got the rebound with Kahkonen pulled and put it past Francouz after Landeskog missed the clearance. It was now 3-3 and it would be enough to send it to overtime and earn the Wild one point.
The Wild had possession to start the overtime, but each team had so many chances. Kadri and Devon Toews were stopped brilliantly by Kahkonen. The one that beat Kahkonen only found the iron from Kadri. On the other end, Kaprizov was saved on a fast break and Francouz made a huge paddle save on the side of the net. But it would take a shootout to decide who got the extra point.
1st round; Zuccarello: Saved by Francouzs’s right pad on the goal line (0-0)
1st round; MacKinnon: Saved by Kahkonen (0-0)
2nd round; Fiala: Saved by Francouz (0-0)
2nd round; Rantanen: Scores five-hole on Kahkonen (0-1)
3rd round; Kaprizov: Saved by Francouzs’s glove (0-1), wins the game for the Avalanche!
This game had the feel of a playoff game. The drama and action on and off the ice made it feel like a playoff atmosphere. It is also very possible that these two teams could meet in the playoffs. This very well could be a preview of what’s to come in May, let’s just hope it ends in a better result than it did the last time these two met in the playoffs.
Rantanen and MacKinnon continue to stay hot, each with two points with a goal and an assist. Rantanen scored the game-winning goal in the shootout as well. After their performances last game against the Arizona Coyotes, they were in the play consistently and MacKinnon was flying all game long. While he hasn’t scored as many goals as people hoped up to now, it comes to down to being out injured. Once he gets flying he will be even more of a problem than he already is.
Kuemper did well too before he was hurt. He was looking solid after his performance in Arizona on Saturday night. However, Francouz did great coming in in relief after Kuemper was taken out by the league and earned the first star of today’s game. He won the 14th home game in a row for the Avs, remains a perfect 9/9 in the shootout and carries the Avs to solely hold first place in the Central Division. Let’s just hope Kuemper’s injury isn’t too serious and he can return soon.
The Avalanche hit the road for two games to visit sunny Southern California, first up against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night. Puck drop is set for 8:00 p.m. MT.