One final game on the road trip and prior to the trade deadline as the Colorado Avalanche visited the San Jose Sharks for another midnight hockey special. While the Avalanche took advantage of a team clearly reeling they also let it get too interesting in a eventual 5-3 victory.
This strange matchup unfolded with the Sharks getting on the board first on a Logan Couture breakaway. Jared Bednar challenged for offside and won on a very close play at the blue line but it was determined Couture had crossed before the puck.
With the mulligan the Avalanche reversed their fortunes and officially got on the board first when Nazem Kadri tipped a Mikko Rantanen shot on the power play at 10:18. It was quick work to take control of the game back and set the tone for what was to come.
Things really broke open when Darren Helm added another goal at 14:14 as he jumped on a San Jose turnover in the offensive zone and made Sharks goaltender Zach Sawchenko look a little green on the finish.
Cale Makar was feeling it tonight as he fired the puck from a sharp angle and picked up his own rebound and deposited the puck top shelf before anyone knew what was happening. The score helped the Avalanche take a three goal lead just over 30 seconds into the second frame and seemed like enough to erase all doubt in the game.
Makar was just getting started as he created Colorado’s fourth goal with another rocket of a shot which Val Nichushkin found the rebound and converted into the score to go up 4-0 at 15:29. It was the third point for Makar this evening which brings him to a nice total of 69 on the season.
The Avalanche were pretty much on cruise control but before the end of the second period the Sharks crafted probably their first shift the entire game in the Colorado offensive zone and ended Pavel Francouz’s shutout bid. Jeffrey Viel tipped a point shot and into the net at 19:19. It was a reunion of former Avalanche with one time training camp invite Viel as well as Nicolas Meloche who recorded the secondary assist on the score. Meloche is now a third pair regular on the Sharks and it was good to see him get on the board against the team who traded him away.
The Avalanche nursed their 4-1-lead for most of the third period looking like the much better team in terms of talent and execution but who were also a bit disinterested in keeping the foot on the gas. It finally came back to bite them as Rudolfs Balcers surprised Francouz with a five-hole shot at 13:02. That got Colorado’s attention as the urgency improved to try and grind out the last few minutes of the game. Erik Karlsson scored the third Sharks goal with the extra attacker with under 90 seconds to go. The drama didn’t last long as Nathan MacKinnon passed off the puck to Val Nichushkin for the empty net tally and his third assist of the night as the game ended in a 5-3 Avalanche final.
It was another night of a new face in the lineup with Nico Sturm making his Avalanche debut wearing for the first time in franchise history the number 78. The number and Sturm’s play looked good on the ice in just over 15 minutes of ice time. He played on a line mostly with Alex Newhook and JT Compher plus significant time on the penalty kill. Sturm won six of eight faceoffs which should certainly please his head coach. All in all a good showing as Sturm used his size and speed well to fit into the system.
Other than Makar’s aggression in the offensive zone it was a tough night in general from the whole back end. Josh Manson didn’t look quite as comfortable as the other day and took a minor penalty. Both Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson had a rough outing paired together and were the lowest among Avalanche players in possession metrics. There’s plenty of time to fine-tune before the playoffs but the absence of Samuel Girard and Bowen Byram were felt in this game.
The start of a three-game homestand with the Edmonton Oilers coming to town at 7:30pm MT on Monday, March 21st.