After enduring a brutal run of injury luck, the Colorado Avalanche has built a winning streak. They came into tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens as winners of four out of their last five games, while netting at least a point in five out of their last six. Despite some early struggles against the Habs, Colorado was able to extend their win streak to five out of their last six games while giving Artturi Lehkonen a career highlight in his first game against his former team.
For the first time since the game against the Buffalo Sabres last week, the Avs trailed. And like the Buffalo game, they allowed a goal less than two minutes into the contest, as Anthony Richard flew past the Colorado defense to score his first career NHL goal.
The Avs played sloppily to open the game and deserved this deficit. The Corsi chart at 5-on-5 tells a tale of Avalanche control from start to finish, but in between their extended possessions in the first period were a lot of bad mistakes. In many ways, they were lucky that they were only down 1-0 to open the contest.
Like their last game against the New York Islanders, the Avs established control over the game in the second period—particularly in the latter half of the second. Jake Allen made a lot of big saves this period, and Montreal was lucky to keep their lead heading into the third period.
Just a couple minutes into the third period, Richard was sent to the box for hooking, and the Avalanche power play cashed in on the opportunity before he could sit down. This had to feel really good for Lehkonen.
Colorado accounted for 86 percent of the expected goals in the third period at 5-on-5 according to Naturalstattrick.com, yet could not beat Montreal on the only scoreboard that matters, and the Canadiens surely breathed a sigh of relief as they guaranteed themselves at least a point for their efforts.
A point is all they would get, however, as Mikko Rantanen—who is playing some of the best hockey of his career right now—picked the puck up off his own goal line and then shot it into the back of Montreal’s net to get the Avs a much-needed two points.
The Avs are back. They’re not back-back—as that’s an impossible task so long as Nathan Mackinnon and Gabriel Landeskog are in street clothes (to say nothing of Bowen Byram and Josh Manson)—but the team is playing simple, consistent hockey the past couple of weeks and it is yielding results. It’s not the flashy up-and-down style that has captivated the league’s attention, but they are playing smart and staying patient, knowing those moments where their talents can shine through are just around the corner.
Rantanen is beginning to mount something of an MVP case, Alexandar Georgiev has allowed two goals in his last three games, and Devon Toews is shutting down every attack in sight while Cale Makar continues to do Cale Makar things. The Avs are still a work in progress, but they are beginning to make a lot of progress as they are now tied for fourth in the Western Conference in points percentage, and sit just six points back of Dallas in first place with two games in hand.
The Avs start a two-game road trip heading to play the Nashville Predators (weather permitting, as the Montreal Canadiens had to cancel their flight). We’ll see if they get it in, but if they do get it in, puck drop is Friday night at 6:00 p.m. MT.