Before The Big Game the Colorado Avalanche had a big game of their own beginning a home-and-home with Central Division foe Dallas Stars. It was a Super Sunday of their own as the Avalanche earned a decisive 4-0 win in a 23 save shutout performance by Darcy Kuemper.
It didn’t take long for the reunited top line to execute one of their favorite plays as Cale Makar made a nifty steal of the puck in the offensive zone and then Gabe Landeskog tipped a Nathan MacKinnon shot from the blue line to give the visitors the first score in the game at 5:31.
Cale Makar wasn’t done setting up plays in the first frame as the Avalanche cashed in for their second score at 11:51. This time with a filthy primary assist Makar beat his man in coverage and then passed the puck through Miro Heiskanen’s legs to a waiting Nazem Kadri at the net front.
It was a start the Avalanche needed especially on the road. The play felt grindy at times but they used their speed to exploit coverage weaknesses and with good finish. Holding a 13-5 shot advantage in a penalty-free period worked in Colorado’s favor too.
The second period was Dallas’ best chance to make a game of it as the Avalanche took three penalties and were on the precipice of losing control. The Stars built a shot advantage of 14-7 and 65% of possession but just could not get on the board and the score was still 2-0 Avalanche after 40 minutes.
For the final frame the Avalanche took a very business-like approach by working together, running the clock and smothering any attack Dallas could muster. Nicolas Aube-Kubel found the dagger goal at 13:50 for his seventh goal of the year and put the game away. Gabe Landeskog added an empty net strike for the fourth and final tally which was probably aided by an uncalled trip in the final minute but the 4-0 victory was secured.
Darcy Kuemper earned his second shutout of the season on a 23 save effort. While the team in front of him dominated at times Kuemper did have to make a few big saves especially on the penalty kill. Quality goaltending has been the backbone of the now 19-game point streak the Avalanche are on.
This was Nathan MacKinnon’s first game back since his face and head injury suffered against the Boston Bruins. He looked rusty with the puck at times but that’s to be expected. A herculean effort wasn’t needed out of him in this game so it was a good chance for MacKinnon to ease back into playing. Three shots on goal and an assist in just under 18 minutes was fairly impactful anyhow.
It was nice to see Nicolas Aube-Kubel rewarded with a goal after a few good hard-working shifts. The Avalanche now have a bottom of the lineup player who can use his physicality to keep the puck away from the opposition, run out the clock and pot a couple goals here and there. It seems he’s found a home here and hopefully that can extend beyond this year.
The second part of the series with Dallas back home at Ball Arena on Tuesday, February 15th at 7pm MT.