Denver was pumping and proud tonight. From those in University Hill to Ball Arena and back, there was plenty to be proud of. Logan O’Connor, a University of Denver alumni, scored two goals in honor of the late Peter McNab - another DU alumni - to celebrate a 5-3 win for the Colorado Avalanche over the Nashville Predators.
It is the third straight win for the Avs carrying over from their games in the NHL Global Series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It is also the third straight game for the Avs where they have scored at least five goals. What a way to get it done in the end.
Things got going quickly, as Shane Bowers on his first-ever NHL shift almost scored thanks to a Kurtis MacDermid pass through the slot. However, he didn’t get good wood on it to get it past Kevin Lankinen. However, Eeli Tolvanen got enough wood on this one from a near-impossible angle to beat Alexandar Georgiev and give the Preds the early lead.
They continued to push Georgiev to get a quick second goal, but Georgie held strong. It benefitted the Avs, as Ryan McDonagh took a cross-checking penalty which led to a slapshot goal from Mikko Rantanen to tie it at one.
With the helper from Nathan MacKinnon, it would only be the start of his night. MacKinnon then proceeded to dangle out Mattias Ekholm but was denied by Lankinen. He was part of the season-high 21 shots on goal to end the period, which included drawing a slashing penalty which carried over to the second period.
While the power play for the Avs was killed off, they would not be held back any longer. First, it all started with a Logan O’Connor tipped shot in front. Thanks to the shot from Devon Toews, his deflected shot beat Lankinen and gave the Avs the lead for the first time.
Just 1:15 later, O’Connor found himself all alone on a breakaway and capitalized on his own terms this time. The former DU Pioneer got his second of the night and doubled the Avs’ lead.
While Rantanen took a cross-checking penalty to put the Avs on the back foot for the first time, it actually proved to be beneficial. As soon as his time in the box expired, he was found on a stretch pass from No. 29 again and beat Lankinen, again, to make the lead now 4-1.
MacKinnon continued to dominate as he went 200 feet down the ice twice but was denied by Lankinen and the post both times. However, he did draw a tripping penalty on Jeremey Lauzon which led to an Evan Rodrigues goal. Despite it being tipped off the stick of a sliding Colton Sissons, they all count in the end, making it 5-1.
While the Avs scored four goals in just 5:38 of game time, they couldn't hold off the Predators from getting on the board in the second period themselves. An Artturi Lehkonen holding penalty was costly, as Ryan Johansen tipped a funky shot past Georgiev to cut the deficit to 5-2 heading into the third period.
Roman Josi showed up big-time in the third period. It started off with a bomb of a goal from the near side boards which quite literally found the top corner despite Georgiev getting a piece of it. Things started to look like they’d be interesting, with the Preds only down 5-3.
They continued to bring the energy, skating well and getting pucks down low but to no avail. Meanwhile, O’Connor tried his best to get his hat trick but was denied by Lankinen in the slot.
His team hunkered down and locked it down in the back, as the Avs played a lot of defensive hockey to just hold Nashville back. They would do it, shutting it down with some solid defensive hockey to keep it a 5-3 game and win.
While MacKinnon only had a couple of assists and no goals tonight, he continues his tear to start the season. He is up to 18 assists on the year which is the second most in the league. He had several rushes down the ice which led to chances but did not go his way. He will score more than three goals this season, it's only a matter of when he breaks through to go along with all of his assists, which will only help this shorthanded team who scored in handfuls Thursday night.
One of the major downsides to this game is the injury bug struck again. Bowers only had 1:46 of ice time tonight due to going down with an injury. He took a hit from Tanner Jannot in the first period, leaving him clutching his left arm and going down the tunnel. He did not return to the game, and he joins the long list of names out with injuries with Darren Helm, Valeri Nichushkin, Gabriel Landeskog, Sam Girard, and Bowen Byram. It will be interesting to see how Jared Bednar goes about this new injury and goes forward with his team.
Of course, this was the first game without our dear friend Peter McNab after his passing on Sunday. Altitude paid tribute to the legend of Maxy with Hockey Fights Cancer signs for everyone in the press box, accompanied by a rose, and an empty chair next to a solo Marc Moser during the entire broadcast. It’s safe to say he’ll be dearly missed, and we are all with him and his family through the hard times, and this win only helps things out a little more to put a smile on everyone’s faces.
The Avs play their second of three home games against the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night. This could be a Stanley Cup Final preview come June, but the Avs in particular would look vastly different than how they will look because of their injury issues right now. Nonetheless, puck drop Saturday night is at 7:00 p.m. MT.