Back in business, at least for the night anyways.
The Colorado Avalanche managed to get back to winning ways, taking control over the Ottawa Senators in a 7-0 victory Saturday night. The win is their first since last Saturday on the road against the Edmonton Oilers.
Head coach Jared Bednar got what he wanted from his team: a full 60-minute performance. He was able to manage his guys, switch some things up, and rest his big guns in the decisive win in the end, scoring the most goals of the season in one game along the way.
Despite an early missed chance by Evan Rodrigues who decided to try and pass off to Nathan MacKinnon instead of shooting on a 2-on-1, the Avs wouldn’t take long to get going. Mikko Rantanen collected the puck on a broken play from MacKinnon and managed to snipe one home to make it 1-0.
Not too long after, players outside of the first line got things going too. After creating a turnover in the neutral zone which bled over the offensive zone, Alex Newhook lined himself up perfectly and walloped home a slapshot to double the lead.
Even with the lead though, the singular power play of the period for the Avs faced difficulties. They did not get a single chance or shot on goal, despite an Artturi Lehkonen tip which sailed through the crease and wide.
Ottawa did grow into the game a little more as it went on, leaving Colorado pinched in their own zone from time to time. However, 10 saves from Pavel Francouz in the period kept their two-goal advantage intact heading into the middle frame.
The period started off with a bang, with Andreas Englund and Austin Watson dropping the mitts and exchanging several blows. Kurtis MacDermid then followed up the fight with a huge hit of his own on former Av Derek Brassard in front of his own bench, drawing quite a reaction from the crowd.
While the physicality was up, the goals also came up too. Lehkonen - who had just missed on a tip minutes before - found himself on a breakaway. After being initially stopped, he crashed the net and managed to squeeze it over the line and in to extend the lead.
Meanwhile, MacKinnon continued to do MacKinnon things where he spun and maneuvered around Sens players to find Devon Toews who then hit the crossbar and couldn’t finish the move. But, another star, Rantanen, would get his second of the game from Newhook and going five-hole to give the Avs a four-goal lead heading into the final frame.
The Avs continued to roll, even with Sam Girard and Ben Meyers unable to convert some chances. A relief to many was seeing the power play finally convert when Lehkonen got his second of the game in a beautiful move in front of Anton Forsberg.
After killing off a Sampo Ranta high-sticking penalty, Colorado made matters worse for Ottawa with Brad Hunt unleashing a bullet from the top of the zone. It beat everybody in front and found the twine to make it 6-0.
Finally, in the final minutes with the game closing out, Newhook decided he wanted a second goal of his own with a pirouette top-shelf goal which needed an additional look from the referees before it counted. But, it was an easy call in the end, giving the Avs a touchdown, some tacos, and a 7-0 win.
Several guys deserve recognition for their part in the winning performance. Rantanen and Lehkonen continue to star for the team, both of whom got two goals. Meanwhile, Newhook deserves some respect of his own. He recorded two goals and an assist in the win as well. After taking a puck off the face Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks, it built up some character for him to put up a solid game in hopes he keeps on producing. Back to Rantanen though, who makes history. His 29 goals are the most amount of goals scored at the halfway point in Avalanche history.
After losing seven of their last eight games, something needed to change for the Avs. Bednar switched things up, which included playing only 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Both MacDermid and Englund would play on the back end, while Sampo Ranta came in for the injured Darren Helm, and Jacob MacDonald would be scratched from the side. The varying combinations playing on the third line with J.T. Compher and Logan O’Connor worked well. With the injuries and constant changes within the team and the unpredictability to come with it, something clicked tonight and hopefully, it keeps on clicking.
Finally, an individual shoutout to Francouz in the crease. He stopped all 29 shots on goal for his first shutout of the season. He’s now played in back-to-back games, giving the usual number-one Alexandar Georgiev some rest after playing 12 straight games during Frankie’s injury. It’s a relief to see a solid backup come in and play his heart out, knowing there’s going to be solid goaltending when healthy. This is exactly what the doctor ordered across the board, Francouz’s performance included.
The Avs wrap up their two-game homestand against their old rival Detroit Red Wings on a matinee MLK Monday. Puck drop is at 1:00 p.m.