It was another late night affair on national tv with the Boston Bruins in town. The Colorado Avalanche rallied from a two-goal third period deficit to extend their incredible win streak at home to 17 consecutive games and eighth straight in a 4-3 overtime victory and close out the first half of the regular season at the top of the league standings with 63 points.
This contest was marred from the start with Nathan MacKinnon going down to another questionable blow to the head just two minutes into the game. Taylor Hall went in to deliver the clip crossbody hit and MacKinnon who was holding his stick up high got it caught in the collateral damage as it went right into his nose. MacKinnon would not return to the game and was ruled out with an upper body injury. After the game head coach Jared Bednar didn’t have much of an update on MacKinnon’s status but called the hit a blindside which was a little high and late.
Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon leaves the game early after an open-ice collision with the Bruins’ Taylor Hall— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) January 27, 2022
Hall was assessed a 2-minute minor penalty for interference
Clean play or dirty hit? pic.twitter.com/VBV5l1X2vw
The first period would end in Colorado’s favor at least as Kurtis MacDermid finally found the back of the net for his first goal of the season on a long range shot at 11:25. Through some tough circumstances the Avalanche held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play despite only managing eight shots on goal and failing to convert on two power plays.
Unfortunately the second period would take a disastrous turn for the home team. First Jake DeBrusk finished off a two-on-one with a heavy shot at 7:10. Hopefully Joe Sakic was taking notes and will opt to burn assets for a guy like him and not a rental at the trade deadline.
The Bruins were just getting started as they took advantage of the Avalanche losing their cool and made them pay for a gift wrapped 5-on-3 when Erik Johnson decided to obviously crosscheck Hall multiple times during a penalty kill. Charlie Coyle scored the first one with the double man advantage at 12:16 and then Brad Marchand a little more than a minute later just after the second penalty expired. Johnson would get benched for the rest of the game as the Bruins took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
For the final 20 minutes at first it just felt like garbage time score effects taking over as the Bruins were in full control. But little by little the Avalanche started making headway and started creating real momentum. It took until 11:46 into that third frame for the Avalanche to finally hit paydirt and cut the deficit in half when Samuel Girard scored his second huge goal of the week and fifth on the year on a puck that bounced past Bruins netminder Linus Ullmark.
With the tie in reach the Avalanche pulled Darcy Kuemper for the extra attacker and unleashed their deadly 6-on-5 which pulled through in the clutch yet again. Gabe Landeskog was the hero on the evening with 33 seconds left in the game and this marathon game was headed to overtime.
The Avalanche controlled the puck well to start the extra frame and then Val Nichushkin barreled to the net and drew a penalty. The power play which had been putrid all night finally had one last chance at redemption. After several good chances that wouldn’t land it finally was Cale Makar who held the dagger and scored his 17th goal of the season to put the game to bed and in a 4-3 Avalanche final.
It was apparent early on that the fatigue and sloppy play of the past week had vanished as the Avalanche were dialed into this match between two good teams and ready to prove their merits on national tv. The injury to MacKinnon left a sour taste as the team largely regrouped but were not able to convert any scoring for a large portion of the game. The top players were still out of sorts and had not been a factor much of the week but they showed up when it was needed to tie and eventually win this game.
As exciting as winning their eight straight game and historic 17th at home in Ball Arena the reality is that the Avalanche still have an entire half of the regular season to go. With already 63 points in the bag the team is positioned well with a lot of cushion but also can’t rest easy and let their intensity and winning habits slip. How they manage these two factors as well as the roster and lineup moving forward will end up mattering later on in the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see who the organization turns to in MacKinnon’s absence. Nobody can fill his skates obviously but now would be the perfect time for a look at some development options with three relatively weak opponents coming up before the All-Star break and while the taxi squad still exists. Or will the Avalanche punt the opportunity and opt for more AHL veteran fill-ins?
A one game road trip to visit the Chicago Blackhawks for a rematch at 6:30pm MT on Friday, January 28th.