Following a weekend back-to-back and a mini three-day break the Colorado Avalanche settled in at home to begin another back-to-back. The first foe they faced was the LA Kings suddenly fighting for their playoff lives in the Pacific Division. It was the Avalanche who put on a show and scored at will in a season-high 9-3 victory.
The first period couldn’t have gone much better for the Avalanche. It didn’t take long for the home team to get on the board when Nicolas Aube-Kubel pounced on a rebound and got the puck past Kings netminder Jonathan Quick at 2:54. They were just heating up and Val Nichushkin converted on his own rebound after a fantastic rush up the ice from Bowen Byram just 39 seconds later.
Nathan MacKinnon got in on the action at 10:15 on a power play goal which chased Quick from the net and then Aube-Kubel scored his second of the period less than a minute later before Cal Petersen had a chance to settle into the net. A 4-0 Avalanche lead after the first 20 minutes was a great start to the game to put it mildly.
Unfortunately there was a lot of time left and the Kings worked hard to get anything going their way in the game. Before long it was a game again after the Kings found two goals from Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo within the first 10 minutes and cut the Avalanche’s lead in half.
Order was restored before the end of the period, however, as Andre Burakovsky found the back of the net at 13:05 for goal number five. Cale Makar drew a penalty on a breakaway and then scored his 26th goal on the season on the ensuing power play at 18:22 to restore the four-goal lead and finish the period up 6-2.
If any doubt that this game was already decided remained when the third period started MacKinnon quickly shut that thought down with his second goal of the game at just over a minute to make the score 7-2 at that point.
Nichuskin added his own second goal at 6:11 and then MacKinnon converted Colorado’s ninth goal at 9:52 for his third career regular season hat trick. Phillip Danault found a third goal for the Kings before the final horn sounded on a 9-3 Avalanche final.
A lot of Avalanche players picked up points in this contest but Byram earned each of his two assists in the first three minutes of the game on the opening two scores. This illustrates just how much more dangerous he makes this team and that he’s able to create momentum right out of the gate. Byram now has 14 points in 22 games with all but one generated at even strength. If there was any question about his offensive ability that should be settled by now. It’s clear that Byram is still getting all his timing and poise with the puck back but the instincts and talent he brings to the game has already made a difference since his return.
Although the Avalanche dominated on the scoreboard they let their guard down in the second period when they gave up two goals and 16 shots to the Kings. The rest of the game was a very business-like approach as the team knows there are much bigger goals which lie ahead. A repeat performance and strong finish to this four-game homestand will only punctuate that fact.
The second half of the back-to-back tomorrow night against the visiting New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m. MT.