The Colorado Avalanche fresh with Nathan MacKinnon back in the lineup came away victorious 4-2 Thursday night. It would take some work to beat the wonderful work of Kaapo Kahkonen for the San Jose Sharks but a dominant third period would get the job done.
With the win, the Avalanche move up to 102 points and continue to climb up the standings. They’re also close to officially clinching a spot in the NHL Playoffs in a little over a month. According to playoffstatus.com, the magic number for the Avs is three consecutive wins to officially clinch.
Things got started slowly in Ball Arena. Besides a couple of early saves and an early penalty kill for the Sharks, it was nonchalant from there. It did see a good defensive stick from Cale Makar midway through.
Things did get better offensively for the Avs. MacKinnon looked no worse for wear, flying into the zone, beating a couple of Sharks defenders before laying it off to Makar who was stopped point-blank by Kahkonen.
Things also got physical when Kurtis MacDermid ran over Matt Nieto along the boards to get the crowd going. Logan O’Connor also got physical next to the penalty boxes. Alex Newhook had one more chance at the end, however, there would be donuts on the scoreboard heading into the second.
The period started with a bang, as Newhook found himself in the slot with the puck. He simply turned and slapped one over the blocker of Kahkonen to give the Avs the lead.
The Sharks would challenge for goaltender interference and lose to give the Avs another chance for a goal on the man advantage. However, they would not find the twine again.
After killing off a Devon Toews hooking penalty, the Sharks would respond. Tomas Hertl beat MacDermid while being tripped in the process by the big man. The puck squirted over to Timo Meier all alone who put it over a sprawling Pavel Francouz to draw level.
Kahkonen continued to stop the Avs persistently and it would take until the final period for someone to find the game-winning goal.
After Francouz got lucky with a goalmouth scramble, the Avs came back down the ice where Valeri Nichushkin connected with Darren Helm to get the Avs the 2-1 advantage.
After Nico Sturm couldn’t capitalize on a breakaway, it would be Brett Burns who somehow beat Francouz five-hole from the point to tie it at two.
Things looked to be getting worse for the Avs, as Meier took down Nazem Kadri in the corner with a cross-check into the boards just a foot away. No penalty was called, Kadri was incensed, and went down the tunnel for some repairs.
Kadri would return to the game and draw a crucial slashing penalty on Nicolas Meloche. This penalty set up a beautiful cross-ice pass from no. 91 to Mikko Rantanen who put it home for the 3-2 lead.
The Avs would continue to force the issue in the final seven minutes of the game. They were looking to kill it off for good. They would do just that when Andre Burakovsky cleaned up the rebound from Kahkonen to give the Avs an insurance 4-2 lead.
The action was far from done though. Hertl and Alexander Barabanov got into it with Rantanen and Makar which drew everyone’s attention in the final 2:30 of the period. The Avs would spend the last moments of the game on the man advantage and finish off a great third period to pull away victorious.
Several guys stood out for the Avalanche tonight. MacKinnon looked like he wasn’t injured at all and flying all over the ice. Nichushkin was the same way tonight too and each was deserving of a goal tonight.
Artturi Lehkonen looked solid in his home debut as well. He was moving well in the second period especially and ended up on the top line at points in the third period with MacKinnon and Rantanen. He’s still looking for his first points in an Avalanche uniform, but his time is coming.
One thing we could talk about for the Avs was that they didn’t put away the Sharks earlier. The play of Kahkonen certainly helped the Sharks stay in it for longer than maybe they should have been. If the Avs could put away their opponents sooner in games, it would all be for the better. With that being said, that’s a very nit-picky thing to look at tonight coming out of a great result.
The Avs have a Saturday afternoon matinee on national broadcast TV against one of the best teams in the league, the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s going to be quite the showdown for the Avs’ first game on ABC in the first of a home-and-home series for these two clubs. Puck drop is at 1:00 p.m. MT.