After dropping a point in their last game and playing .500 hockey on their most recent road trip, the Colorado Avalanche were in dire need of two points, and that’s before you get to the fact that this was a crucial four-point game against the division rival Minnesota Wild. This was an intense and physical contest where the Avs were able to get a critical two points (and deny the Wild any) despite not playing their best game.
Last game against the Lightning, Artturi Lehkonen scored just 50 seconds in, and he nearly made some more first-shift magic, just missing wide on a good chance to open the game. If there was any doubt as to whether both teams would treat this with the intensity of a playoff game, two guys who never fight, Bowen Byram and Matt Boldy, dropped the gloves early on.
Boldy and Byram dropping the gloves. pic.twitter.com/ZpDnpSZNNN— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 16, 2023
After some back-and-forth play, Minnesota began to take over the game, but it was Colorado who would strike first on an Andrew Cogliano wrist shot.
The Avs would extend their lead to 2-0 on Denis Malgin’s second Avalanche goal (that Marc-Andre Fleury probably wants back), both coming in back-to-back games.
This goal sparked the Wild, as they completely took over the game for the next 13 minutes. They soon found themselves on the power play, and Joel Eriksson Ek tipped in Mats Zucarello’s shot from the point to cut Colorado’s lead in half.
After Malgin’s goal, the Avalanche would not record a shot on net until the end of the period, as Minnesota had near-total control of play. The good news for the Avs is that they made the most of their extremely limited chances in the second period, as Nathan Mackinnon received an excellent pass from Artturi Lehkonen and slipped in yet another shot that Fleury probably wanted back.
This tally marked three goals on the last five shots for the Avs, as they took the most dangerous lead in sports into the third period.
This period flew by as there were just three whistles in the first 15 minutes, and Colorado finally controlled the play in a way that they hadn’t all night. They out-shot and out-chanced the Wild this period, and Josh Manson punctuated their best stretch of play all night with a bone-crushing hit.
Josh Manson with a MONSTER hit on Connor Dewar. pic.twitter.com/1B6mCMuzLR— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 16, 2023
Then, with a little over five minutes remaining, Minnesota’s superstar Kirill Kaprizov ripped a skillful backhand over Alexandar Georgiev’s shoulder to cut Colorado’s lead to one going into the final quarter of the period.
The Wild mounted a desperate comeback in the final seconds, but Georgiev stood tall, and he got some big-time help from Devon Toews and Josh Manson as the Avs held on for the win.
Minnesota is surely frustrated they couldn’t get any points out of this game. According to Natural Stat Trick, they had 73 percent of the expected goals in the first period at 5-on-5 and 76 percent in the second.
Yet couldn’t muster a single goal against the best player on the ice tonight: Alexandar Georgiev.
Josh Manson returned and looked like he didn’t miss a beat, putting in a huge defensive effort and doling out some big hits. This was an encouraging effort for Colorado despite not being their best one, as they finally closed strong and saved their best period for last, creating 54 percent of the expected goals at 5-on-5 in the 3rd to salt away a victory against the Wild.
The Avs finish this two-game road trip with another big division rivalry game against another team arguably in the playoff race. It’s also the start of their second set of back-to-back at the home of the St. Louis Blues. Puck drop on Saturday afternoon is at 12:00 p.m. MT on NHL Network.