The Colorado Avalanche matched up with the Chicago Blackhawks for the second time in less than a week. Once again, they found themselves on top in a dramatic 6-4 win on Friday night.
The Avs seemed to be in cruise control for most of the game until the third period, where the Blackhawks exploded for four goals. It would take two empty net goals from Nazem Kadri and Cale Makar to kill off the game in the final minutes.
The first period was a goaltending duel. Pavel Francouz, who had shutout opponents in the last two games, looked to keep that stat going and kept up to it in the period. His opposite number, Marc-Andre Fleury was doing Marc-Andre Fluery things, playing up to his high level.
There was not much going forward for the Avs, but Logan O’Connor did miss on a penalty kill breakaway looking for shorthanded goal number seven on the year. Despite being outshot 11-6 in the first, the Avs and Blackhawks each had goose eggs on the board.
In the second period, things finally got going. A power play that had carried over from the end of the first period benefitted the Avs, as Captain Gabriel Landeskog capitalized to give his team the lead.
Alex Newhook wanted in on the action as well. The birthday boy received a beautiful pass from Kadri behind the net and put it past Fleury to make it 2-0 but it was disallowed for offsides.
J.T. Compher then played his part and dropped the gloves with Brandon Hagel at center ice in a good bout. The hometown kid Compher then got on the scoreboard putting the puck away in the slot to make it 2-0, and the Avs looked in command heading into the third
The Avs looked to be in better position from the start of the third period, as Landeskog again scored another power play goal in the first 1:15 of the frame and extended the lead to 3-0.
Things went into overdrive from here. With this Landeskog goal came three more goals for a total of four in 1:38. Let’s quickly run through them: Hagel got his 12th goal of the season to make it 3-1 with a deflection in front of Francouz. Patrick Kane then went 200 feet and tipped one home on a pass to cut the deficit to one. Luckily, birthday boy Newhook got his goal that counted on a 2-on-1 with Kadri to make it 4-2.
The Avs were simply looking to calm things down and take back command of this game. Things were getting physical and Chicago was looking to upset the Avs’s eight game win streak. Kane got his second goal of the game waiting out Francouz and gave Chicago life, down only one 4-3 with 6:00 left.
With Fleury pulled, the Avs looked to have killed off the game, as Kadri went down the ice and got the empty net goal off of a beaten icing call by Mikko Rantanen to make it 5-3.
But Chicago was still not done yet. They continued to push and created a goalmouth scramble with players everywhere. Somehow, someway, Hagel got his second of the game that squeaked quietly across the goal line and kept Chicago in the running 5-4.
Finally, Cale Makar took matters in his own hands, scoring another empty net goal by sending it down ice into the gaping net. He’s now scored in consecutive games yet again and desperately killed it off for good now, 6-4.
The Avs almost had a third period collapse once again. We all remember the collapses they had in the final period early on in the season, but seemed to have put that trend aside as of late. It almost reappeared tonight, but they were able to hang on with that dramatic third period, and ended up being outshot 43-27.
Kadri had a phenomenal game and stepped up in a big way in the absence of Nathan MacKinnon. He had a goal and three assists in the win. MacKinnon’s linemates had a great game as well, with Landeskog recording two goals and an assist. Rantanen had himself two assists as well despite not finding the net. The Avs will be just fine without MacKinnon for at least the next three games.
Compher also had himself a nice game, recording a Gordie Howe hat trick playing in his hometown. There have been rumblings of him being on the trading block come the trade deadline, but this was a statement game for him. He helped his team with their ninth straight game and 14th win in January, the most wins in the month of January in the NHL ever.
The one game road trip for the Avs ends as quickly as it started. They start a three-game home stand with the NHL All Star Break splitting between games two and three. Game one of the home stand is against the Buffalo Sabres this Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. MT.