The squad brought their traveling showcase to the bright lights in the big city of Toronto but left the offense at home in this tightly-contested game. The Colorado Avalanche earned a 2-1 victory in a shootout to reach 82 points in the standings.
It was a fast start for the Toronto Maple Leafs as the got on the board at 3:41 when Morgan Reilly was lost in coverage and he put the home team on the board first. The visitors dug in and didn’t allow another score plus won the special teams battle. After converting on their own power play at 14:08 when Mikko Rantanen scored his 44th goal of the season the Avalanche then thwarted the deadly Toronto power play to end the first 20 minutes of play at a 1-1 tie.
The game settled into a conscious defensive effort but with chances sprinkled through for both teams in the second period. Neither team added to their goal total despite a couple man advantages for both sides. Evan Rodrigues got caught with the dreaded power play interference penalty was about the most drama in the middle frame.
There wasn’t any scoring in the third period either and the Avalanche lost the shot battle in this frame 7-6 but ended up on top 29-18 overall. The two teams, who blocked 34 shots between them, settled on going to overtime to find the winner. In the extra period there weren’t many good plays made by either team although the Avalanche accounted for all of the four shots.
A shootout would then settle the game. Nathan MacKinnon scored the game winner on a nice move and deposited the puck just over Ilya Samsonov’s glove. Alexandar Georgiev stopped all three shots he faced and earned a 17-save victory, his 30th win of the season in this 2-1 Avalanche final.
It was the first game back in the NHL for Alex Galchenyuk who needed more reprogramming in the AHL before getting a second shot with the Avalanche. It was a fine 3:22 and five shifts of time on ice which included a shot on goal and two hits. The nature of the game and lack of offense was the reason than anything merit based. With Artturi Lehkonen expected out at least a month Galchenyuk will likely see a long look so this is just the beginning.
In similar vein, “top-six” Denis Malgin didn’t exactly get heavy usage either playing just over 10 minutes until he received a shift in overtime. He, too, did nothing wrong but more evidence of Bednar shortening the bench to his “trusted” guys in a tight game. It’s a reminder that what’s put on paper often does not shake out as reality in the boxscore.
After the fast start this game seemed destined for another no-defense barn burner but both teams prioritized blocking shots and disrupting shooting lanes to keep each other off the board. It was boring at times to watch but pointed toward tuning-up for eventual playoff hockey which team team sees on the horizon.
One final stop on the Canadian portion of the road trip at the Ottawa Senators at 5 p.m. MT tomorrow night.