After a surprisingly difficult road trip the Colorado Avalanche headed home for yet another one game stay and met with the team who had handed them a loss just the weekend before in the Calgary Flames. Now down Gabe Landeskog and Samuel Girard the Avalanche played with 17 skaters including the one who was the difference maker in this 3-0 victory — Nathan MacKinnon.
On the back of a good start to the first period the Avalanche converted on their first power play opportunity at 9:55 on a fantastic shot from Nathan MacKinnon. The home team almost got two on the board as Alex Newhook ripped a puck from the slot on their second power play but it was a double doink off the crossbar and post which sadly never crossed the goal line. Still, the Avalanche were up 1-0 after the first 20 minutes and in the driver’s seat.
The second frame was largely a quick moving back and forth affair with the only event of note was Calgary drawing a penalty late in the period which helped them take over a slight shot advantage. The scoreboard still read Colorado up 1-0.
What the Avalanche needed they received exactly four minutes into the final frame as Nathan MacKinnon corralled the puck on a Mikko Rantanen face-off win and just snapped the puck past Flames goaltender Dan Vladar. The score gave the Avalanche the breathing room they needed of a two-goal lead to close out the game and earn the two points.
Calgary turned up the urgency now down by two and had a few strong shifts in the offensive zone. The Avalanche responded with a full-team effort blocking shots and doing what it took to get the job done. Mikko Rantanen added an empty net goal with under two minutes to go just to put the game out of reach. The Flames received a last minute power play and tried to get on the board with the extra attacker but Darcy Kuemper stood tall and earned his fourth shutout of the season in a 3-0 final score.
Usually a 46 save shutout effort would be the headline of the game — and Darcy Kuemper was fantastic especially during a 22 shot barrage in the third period — but Nathan MacKinnon simply stole the show. What has been an at times frustrating season for him despite elite production numbers looked like it was all in the past. MacKinnon was aggressive and determined in a focused approach to be the difference maker and did just that with two great individual effort goals. With captain Gabe Landeskog out of the lineup for a little while it was a fantastic time to step up and lead the team to victory.
Alex Newhook continues to look good in his audition on the second line. Although he did not get on the scoreboard did generate a few chances playing nearly 19 minutes and on a line with Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky. Newhook has held up well there both defensively and physically as well as helping create plays in the offensive zone. His play in an elevated role should give the coaching staff confidence of his abilities there both in the short term and in the future.
The start of a California road trip in Los Angeles to face the Kings at 8:30pm MT on Tuesday, March 15th.