It was a quick turnaround after their first regulation loss at Ball Arena since October for the Colorado Avalanche as they travelled overnight to face the Vegas Golden Knights. It took most of the game before Colorado’s offense awoke but two third period goals and 29 save shutout from Darcy Kuemper earned the visitors a 2-0 victory.
This was a contest which began largely overshadowed by Jack Eichel’s first game in a Golden Knights uniform and a hilariously delayed puck drop due to TNT’s scheduling. The Avalanche tried to muster enough energy after a difficult first game of the back-to-back and late night travel to grind out a tie through the first period.
There was more life from the Avalanche in the second period as they slowly started to push momentum in their direction but still could not get on the scoreboard. The best chance came from a fantastic Sam Girard pass to a wide open Gabe Landeskog at the net front who then chipped the puck off the right post and it skipped behind the Vegas netminder and across the goal line before bouncing out of the crease. After so many missed chances against Dallas the previous game a little bit of fear was starting to creep in that it might not be the Avalanche’s night again.
After the excruciating misses through the first two period it was Gabe Landeskog to suddenly break through and get a puck into the net just 41 seconds into the third frame. The Avalanche mixed things up a little with Landeskog shooting from where Mikko Rantanen typically does and the new wrinkle was just enough to get the puck past Laurent Brossoit. Cale Makar made a fantastic play to keep the puck in the offensive zone at the blue line and zipped the puck over to Landeskog for the score.
The Avalanche allowed Vegas to dictate play a little too much for the majority of the third period but Mikko Rantanen finally hit his shot from his familiar spot on the right circle at 15:45 on the power play to give the Avalanche their much-needed insurance marker. Rantanen doesn’t miss often when he gets the look he wants and was aided by a lot of open net to shoot at.
Vegas pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker in the final minutes but Darcy Kuemper stood tall and earned a 29 save shutout, his second consecutive this week, to give the Avalanche their 35th win on the season in a 2-0 final.
Darcy Kuemper earned every bit of his first star honors and the shutout making several impressive stops on breakaways and defensive breakdowns in close. He was gobbling up every puck and left few rebounds for Vegas to pounce on. Kuemper has really settled into his game lately and is keeping those annoying and needless goaltender trade deadline rumors at bay.
The contests have been a bit more of a challenge since the All-Star break but the Avalanche have been able to execute two impressive shutouts on the road in places they have had trouble in the past and against two teams they suffered regulation losses to this season. Shoring up their road game is one of the important objectives this second half of the season and the Avalanche are off to a marvelous start in that department.
The start of a three-game road trip and the first in a pair of 11am MT starts on Saturday, February 19th against the Buffalo Sabres.