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Avalanche win hot game against fiery Flames to continue blazing to the top

Avs take big win in Nazem Kadri’s return to Denver.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This game was filled with emotions. We all could have guessed that with Nazem Kadri making his first trip back to Ball Arena since he signed with the Calgary Flames in the offseason. What a lot of us likely didn’t expect was for the anger to take over this game so rampantly. Fortunately for the Colorado Avalanche, the Flames brought the fire a bit to late in this one and the Avalanche earned the 4-1 win.


There was a time when the Colorado Avalanche scoring the first goal in the game was about as rare as seeing Kurtis MacDermid lose a fight (both happened in this game), but now it has become a habit for the Avs. More specifically it has become a habit for Nathan MacKinnon. After scoring on a breakaway just nineteen seconds into the game last night against Winnipeg it took him three minutes to get things started today. A great forecheck from Val Nichushkin (another common sight) gave him the puck, which he flubbed to center ice. The puck wasn’t meant for MacKinnon, but that didn’t stop him from picking it up, walking in, and ripping a shot past Jakob Markstrom’s glove. The Avs led 1-0, which didn’t last for long.

About five minutes later the third line chipped in a goal to add to the lead. If you thought Darren Helm had spontaneously come back from injury for one shift to score this goal you wouldn’t be alone. The build-up to this goal was identical to Helm’s iconic Game 6 goal in St. Louis from last year’s postseason. Logan O’Connor threw a pass across the ice and off the board for his center to walk into, however, this time it was Alex Newhook, who walked into the shot and blasted it high glove past Markstrom.

This first period didn’t end up being as dominant as last night’s rout in Manitoba though. The Avs clearly felt the effects of the SEGABABA and spent a lot of time in their own zone for the remainder of the first, but they kept the Flames to the outside and were able to get out with their two-goal lead intact.

Colorado got another speedy goal in the second. This one was a much-needed tally on the powerplay, courtesy of Mikko Rantanen’s forearm. The shot that deflected off said forearm came courtesy of a Val Nichushkin one-timer on a perfectly timed pass from Bowen Byram, making this goal feel like a reversal of roles of sorts. Nichushkin’s shot was a beauty and may have been labeled top corner if it weren’t for the Rantanen’s heralded large body. Either way, it was a big goal for the Avalanche to extend their lead.

After the Rantanen goal, the Flames pushed back hard. Similar to the first period the Avs had begun to reel a bit, turning over pucks and not clearing the zone were prevalent themes. Remember that MacDermid fight I mentioned earlier? That was what really “broke the dam” for Calgary. That and Andrew Cogliano taking an unfortunate tripping penalty immediately after the fight felt like it was too good not for the Flames to capitalize on. And it was. Tyler Toffoli scored his 25th goal of the season on the ensuing powerplay off of a rebound that went right to him at the goal line. A true right place at the right time goal if there ever was one.

The Toffoli goal swung the pendulum for Calgary hard, but fortunately for the Avalanche the intermission was approaching soon and they made it count. Instead of a hard push from the Flames to start the third, it felt like the Avs were really taking it to them in search of an insurance goal. And boy did they get it.

Another goal that if you had no idea who actually scored it you would have never guessed it was them. This time it was Denis Malgin doing his best Nathan MacKinnon impression on ex-Av Nikita Zadorov. Malgin picked up the pass from Josh Manson in the neutral zone, built up speed, and went straight at Zadorov before pushing the puck and sidestepping the big Russian. Once he dispatched Zadorov it was just him and Markstrom where he, and stop me if you’ve heard this one, beat him glove side.

This would be the last goal of the game, and while Calgary pushed a bit after the rest of the game was marred with high tempers.

It all started when Mikael Backlund tried to drive Nathan MacKinnon into the boards for no reason. MacKinnon didn’t appreciate it and practically pulled Backlund’s gloves off to get him to fight. Backlund declined and the Flames got a powerplay, which they did all but nothing on. But the Swedish center decided he wanted to get involved in more shenanigans. Minutes later, while the Avs were on the powerplay, Backlund and MacKinnon were in a puck battle along the boards when Mikko Rantanen came in to support his center. For some reason, Backlund didn’t approve and dumped him to the ice and fed him a few crosschecks for good measure. Bowen Byram had seen enough and became incensed. He threw his gloves off and began tossing Backlund around, which incited a huge scrum in the Avalanche zone. MacKenzie Weegar dropped his gloves and threw Val Nichushkin, who was practically just standing around, to the ground.

From that point on tensions were high and it felt like the only thing Calgary was interested in was trying to injure Avs. They failed at that and the Avalanche walked away with the 4-1 win.


It wasn’t pretty at times tonight. Similar to the Edmonton game last Sunday I thought the Avs had some issues with the puck, that they just can’t have given the situation they’re in. However, they did a great job of limiting any sort of danger from Calgary, and when they did Alexandar Georgiev stood tall.

I was a fan of most players tonight. My big standouts were Alex Newhook, Denis Malgin, Nathan MacKinnon, and the Avs blueline. There were obviously other good performances, like Val Nichushkin who ended the night with two assists, but these were the best.

Alex Newhook came out of the gate after the All-Star break pretty slow, but these last three games he’s really picked it up. Before tonight the only issue I had with Newhook was his confidence. He was passing up too many opportunities. Tonight he did not do that and it paid off. You just hope he can continue this level of play a bit more consistently down the stretch. He’s so dynamic when he’s on. The way he moves with the puck gives you a glimpse of the player he can be later in his career if he can just find some consistency.

You’re hard-pressed to find someone who likes Denis Malgin more than me. Similar to Newhook he brings a much-needed offensive burst to the bottom six. His puck skill and skating fit in so well with this team and now that he’s found his role and gotten comfortable in Colorado he’s beginning to flourish. Given Malgin is an RFA and he fits the Avs’ identity so well I’m going to be pounding the table until they extend him.

How much is there to say about Nathan MacKinnon? The dude is on. He can smoke defenders in any way he pleases and has found that finishing touch he lacked since he came back from injury. His attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck is great to see as well. If he keeps this level up, look out.

Ever since the Avs got Bowen Byram, and now Josh Manson, back their defense has been what we all knew it could be. And this is still without Cale Makar. Once he comes back if they can stay healthy this blueline is going to be a treat to watch. Even on nights like this where they weren’t exactly potent offensively they just gave Calgary nothing. They have the ability to just shut teams down and it’s so delightful to see when they do.

The Avs have a tough stretch ahead of them. They're within striking distance of first in the Central, and potentially the West. They have some tough opponents coming up but good teams need to beat other good teams. This next week should be a real test for the Avs and I’m excited to see how they handle it.


A match with the Vegas Golden Knights at 7 p.m. MT on Monday, February 27th.