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Recap: Avs end 2023 with another gritty victory

For the second straight game, Colorado had to battle to get the win.

San Jose Sharks v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Ring in the New Year the right way with the Colorado Avalanche!

They managed to do just so with their 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in what was a close matchup on the scoreboard. But, it wasn’t very close taking a deep dive into this game.

San Jose struggled to maintain offensive prowess, while the Avs did so with ease, particularly in the third period. They needed to do so for the second game in a row, looking for another gritty win. Another late goal made the difference, and ended 2023 on a high note for what has been an up-and-down year for the Avalanche.

First Period

The highly-anticipated return of Sam Girard was greeted pleasantly by the Avs fans in attendance, giving him a big ovation the first time he controlled the puck. His moves and passes would be welcomed back by the Avs, who were throwing a lot at Sharks netminder Kaapo Kahkonen.

They would throw even more at him when San Jose took a too many men penalty. It led to what we’ve seen so many times before: Nathan MacKinnon finding Mikko Rantanen on a cross-ice pass, ending with the puck in the back of the net.

Colorado was strong defensively, and didn’t let the Sharks get a shot on net until the 11 minute mark of the period. They spent most of the frame in the offensive zone, but did take their foot off the gas and weren’t threatening as much. Regardless, there was still plenty of hockey left to score some more.

Second Period

However, the Avs’ scoring would come to a screeching halt. They could not get anything threatening on Kahkonen thanks to penalties and San Jose clogging up the neutral zone. But we did still see MacKinnon rock people’s world, the victim being Ty Emberson and creating a clip sure to appear in a future hype video.

Penalties would make a difference in the period, with Colorado unable to convert on a 4-on-3. But, the Sharks would convert after Jonathan Drouin took a hooking penalty. Tomas Hertl, in his 700th career game, was left all alone in the slot, and couldn't miss to tie it up.

The period came to a slow stop, but not before the Sharks threatened once again. In the final seconds, Mikael Granlund was left alone in front this time and found the iron. With the game even at one, it might’ve given the Avs a jolt of life for the final 20 minutes of 2023.

Third Period

The Avs controlled the period and did not look back. Opposite to the second period, they would look to create with a power play thanks to Calen Addison holding Jonathan Drouin, and Mikael Granlund tripping Rantanen for a 5-on-3. But, they couldn't beat Kahkonen.

The Sharks could not get anything offensively going, and were on their heels blocking everything they could. MacKinnon led the way, hitting two posts in spectacular fashion with what would’ve been highlight-reel goals.

Finally, the Avs managed to find the twine. It came from MacKinnon rushing onto the ice with a delayed penalty on San Jose, who found Jack Johnson, who then found Valeri Nichushkin with a phenomenal pass, sold the shot, and Nichushkin grabbed the lead.

Penalties would then be a scare for the Avs in the final minutes. Anthony Duclair was called for high-sticking, but the Avs couldn’t convert thanks to Cale Makar tripping Granlund to make it 4-on-4 hockey. Kahkonen would be sent to the bench for the extra attacker, but Josh Manson put the puck into an empty net from 175 feet away to close out 2023 with a win.

Takeaways

For the second game in a row, the Avs struggled to find offense and were caught in another close matchup. It took another gritty win and persevering through the murky play of San Jose. Colorado did generate many more chances in this game compared to their last game against the St. Louis Blues, but still couldn’t find the net consistently. Differing from last game, the stars made the difference and were the scorers to get the Avs their second straight win.

One of the stars, none other than MacKinnon, continues his home point streak. It is now at 19 games. While he lost his overall streak last game against the St. Louis Blues, this record will stay intact for at least another game. He was severely unlucky to not get more points in this matchup after hitting the post twice in the final frame. Regardless, his two assists put him ahead of the great Peter Stastny for the most points in a calendar month in franchise history with 29 points in 15 games.

2023 for the Avalanche was, a lot, to say the least. It depends on who you ask, but there are several different ways to describe it. The way we’ll describe it: coulda, woulda, shoulda. The team ends with a 58-25-8 record, second-most for wins across the league in the calendar year. But yet, for many, it was a year of disappointment. The first round knockout to the Seattle Kraken is the main reason why, but the Avs were dealt a bad hand all year. With injuries wrecking havoc on the team, it just wasn’t meant to be. But it’s also affected the beginning of this season. Just missed chances along the way for a very good hockey team. If there’s any New Year’s resolutions Avalanche fans should have, it’s for good health.

Upcoming

The Avs enter the new year wrapping up this quick two-game home stand with the New York Islanders coming to town. Puck drop on Tuesday night is at 7:00 p.m. MT. In the meantime, see you next year and have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve and Day from everybody here at MHH!