The Colorado Avalanche returned to play against the high-flying Anaheim Ducks in a valiant 4-2 come-from-behind win in front of an anxious Ball Arena crowd. The anxiety was through the roof as the Avs found themselves 2-0 down halfway through the second period before rallying back.
Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen showed their stardom, with each getting three points on the day. It would be Logan O’Connor, however, who stole the show late in the third period to complete the comeback.
MacKinnon had a great chance down low early on that was stopped by John Gibson. Just a minute later, Sam Carrick would collect the rebound from Darcy Kuemper and be behind from the get-go 1-0.
The Avs were still shaky, with Nicolas Aube-Kubel giving up a chance that needed to be stopped and some defensive plays necessary to keep the Ducks out of the net. After a power play for the Avs, they found themselves having some good zone time and possession to get things going for them.
The first line was running the show, as MacKinnon and Rantanen all had chances stopped by Gibson. Toews shot one from the top of the circles that pinged off the iron. While behind going into the room, it was not for a lack of trying after not playing for nearly three weeks.
The Avs were still shaking off the rust, and it was visually shown when Sam Girard threw it over the net. It lead to a Cam Fowler power play goal to double the Ducks lead to 2-0.
The Avs still could not do much at all on 5-on-5 hockey except for the first line. They all looked lethargic and not good. It took a hooking penalty on the Ducks to get the Avs rolling. After some great chances on the man advantage, Devon Toews finally placed a perfect shot past Gibson to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Avs felt the momentum they had and pushed with the crowd behind them. The energy was high on both ends of the ice, with physicality coming into play and Kuemper and Gibson each making remarkable saves. The latter of the two goalies was the sole reason why the Ducks still had the 2-1 lead with one period to go.
The Avs came out of the room the better team, determined to get back into it. They would do just that when Tyson Jost got Sam Steel to commit a hooking penalty. The top unit would find MacKinnon in his usual spot with the one-timer. After a Gibson save, Gabriel Landeskog forced it into an open net to tie it at two.
Things quieted down from there, and the Ducks grew more into the period and got more chances on Kuemper. He was up to the task, continuing to keep things level as well as Gibson on the other end for the Ducks.
It looked as if this game was destined for overtime. But, it wouldn’t end quietly. LOC got a saucer pass from MacKinnon on a 3-on-1 with only 1:11 left to pull the Avs ahead 3-2. It was questioned for offsides and Rantanen had just gotten back onsides to allow the goal to muster up.
Rantanen would finish it off while in a tangle and falling down at his own blue line and threw it into an empty net. He and the Avs had completed the comeback 4-2.
MacKinnon and Rantanen each had three point games, leading the team on the top line. The top line lead from the get-go despite a shaky first two periods and eventually lead to the comeback win. While the depth of the Avs is great, it is always great to know that the top guys are still leading this team.
The man advantage was a strength for the Avs, who went 2/5 and steered the team towards the win column. This was against a high-ranked Ducks PK squad that has been good all year, especially on the road. The Avs utilized their strength on the man-advantage to even get them a shot in this game.
With all that being said, it was far from perfect for the Avs. It was to be expected that the Avs would need to find their legs early on in the game due to a nearly three week break. Face-offs were an issue, as the Avs could not get possession after stoppages in play. Jared Bednar, who coached his 400th career regular season game today, will look to get back to work in the face-off circle.
The Avalanche will hit the road for just one game, facing the division rival Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. Puck drop is set for 6:30 p.m. MT.