With a long Christmas break just around the corner, the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators could have played a light-hearted game while looking forward to time with their loved ones. Instead, they fought a tense back-and-forth battle in a raucous playoff atmosphere.
“They owned the first half of the game” – Jared Bednar
Colorado’s games have had a theme during this winning streak. They struggle to open them, and don’t find their footing until sometime in the second period, before imposing their will on the rest of the game. Tonight was no different, as they went down thanks to Ryan Johansen.
The second began bleaker than the first, as Nashville executed their game plan to perfection and put the Avs on their heels while chasing ghosts and rebounds. This led to yet another Matt Duchene goal against the Avalanche which is as reliable of an event as the sunrise at this point.
Just when it felt like this may not be Colorado’s night, Mikko Rantanen added another data point to buttress his burgeoning MVP campaign and gave the Avalanche some life heading into the third.
“I think our forwards really started working in the second part of the game, which allowed our [defense] to stay up and stifle plays in the neutral zone and keep us playing on the right half of the rink.” – Jared Bednar
Colorado came out roaring and had several great chances, but news that Val Nichushkin would not return dampened the mood. J.T. Compher took a stick to the face and suddenly both he, Brad Hunt, and Martin Kaut joined Nichushkin in the locker room midway through the third as Avs Twitter panicked. Despite being short-handed, the Avs continued to drive play until both Compher and Hunt returned, then Colorado’s top-line center really put his stamp on this game.
Compher wasn’t done with the heroics, as he took another high stick to the face with 1:11 remaining, which sent the Avalanche to the power play that they were unable to cash in on in regulation.
Despite some good chances to begin the period, the Avs could not capitalize on the man advantage, and both teams played 4-on-4 until there were 68 seconds left in the contest. After losing a faceoff to Duchene, Evan Rodrigues retrieved the puck, then faked out the entire state of Tennessee as he slid the puck to a wide-open Samuel Girard.
This was a gritty win that the Avs were admittedly “fortunate” to win (Jared Bednar’s word, not mine). With a long Christmas break around the corner, it would have been easy to pack it in at 2-0 on the road against a desperate team out-shooting them two to one. Instead, the Avs dragged themselves back into a game still there for the taking and captured just enough moments of brilliance from their best players to sneak two points out of the building.
Colorado got another great performance in net, as Juuse Saros was the number one star for most of this game while Alexandar Georgiev was matching him save for save. Losing Nichushkin hurts, which casts a bit of a cloud over this victory, but the Avs must be feeling good about how they’re playing going into 2023. They’ve won four of their last five, including the last three games beyond the regulation time.
The Avs have a three-day break for Christmas before continuing on the road trip with their first visit to Mullet Arena and the Arizona Coyotes. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. MT on Tuesday.