It was a matinee affair to close out the home stand with the old rival Detroit Red Wings in town as the Colorado Avalanche looked to build momentum off of their dominant win against Ottawa. Another dominating performance ensued with the Avs cruising to a much-needed 6-3 win.
The Avalanche desperately need anyone other than Mikko Rantanen to get hot and that player may just be fellow Finn Artturi Lehkonen who found the back of the net early in this contest at 5:12. Detroit challenged for goaltender interference and might have won but all the contact from Nathan MacKinnon on netminder Ville Husso occurred outside the blue paint and it was deemed a good goal.
What was also sorely missed were power play goals and on their third attempt in the first period the home team finally cashed in from Cale Makar scoring his 12th goal on the season at 18:05. Val Nichushkin back in the lineup provided a great screen and picked up an assist as well as another sight for sore eyes. After 20 minutes of play the Avalanche had a 2-0 lead.
The second period has given Colorado trouble lately but with the lead and now a bit of confidence is was the Avalanche who took control. Cale Makar clearly feeling it put some moves on the Red Wings and scored a silky smooth goal at 3:05 for his second of the afternoon.
A clear sign the Avs were rolling in this period was when the second power play unit cashed in for the team’s second man advantage tally of the game, which hadn’t happened since the first of December. JT Compher redirected a perfect pass from Evan Rodrigues at 10:06 to put the boys in burgundy up four goals.
The dagger came out at 15:53 when Rodrigues feathered another ridiculous pass and this time the recipient MacKinnon buried the biscuit left all alone in front of Husso for the team’s fifth goal of the contest. However, it wasn’t all perfect as Detroit got on the board from Andrew Copp with one minute left in the frame as Andreas Englund and Erik Johnson couldn’t clear the crease but a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes of play is just what the Avalanche needed.
With a new goaltender in net Detroit might have let doubt creep back into the game with a long-range goal on a Ben Chiarot slap shot at 3:40 into the third period but order was quickly restored when MacKinnon dropped a dime on a breakaway less than two minutes later for his second goal of the game in an overall four-point afternoon. While the Red Wings got a goal from Moritz Seider in the dying seconds to make it 6-3 it was still a blowout Avalanche win.
Life is just better with Val Nichushkin in the lineup, now with a 11-3-2 record when that is the case it’s clear he impacts the game both on and off the scoresheet. He looked rejuvenated and skating much better after allowing his ankle time to feel better and hopefully that is the last of the setbacks for him.
It was Pavel Francouz’s third straight start and he has earned every bit of his two consecutive wins. While a couple pucks bounced off the post in the Avalanche’s favor they also have benefitted from Francouz’s calm demeanor and they begin to pull themselves out of the slide they were on. Stability in net will be a big factor for any Avalanche success moving forward.
Anton Blidh got the call to be the warm body on the fake fourth line and even with the game in hand he still only played eight minutes. If the Avalanche can sustain their better play through the second half of the season then who is on the fourth line won’t matter as much but working any prospects into the lineup for NHL experience is still going to be crucial if the organization wants any graduations into depth roles coming this fall.
The start of a northwest road trip against the Calgary Flames, puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. MT on Wednesday, January 18th.