Nathan MacKinnon, 100-point scorer.
The Dogg finally crossed a huge achievement off his list with two goals and an assist in the Colorado Avalanche’s 4-3 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks. It was closer than some may have hoped after blowing a 3-1 lead in the third period.
Colorado looked like their usual dominant selves out of the gate in San Jose. It was only reflected further when Jack Johnson scored his second goal of the season on a deflection past Kappo Kahkonen.
With a 1-0 lead, the Avs didn’t stop pushing. The first line would drive such momentum and find the net a second time, this time from Evan Rodrigues who finished off the rebound from MacKinnon’s shot to make it 2-0.
It looked and seemed pretty convincing and in control for Colorado. When they entered the second period of play, they looked to add on more. However, the phrase “save by Kahkonen” became a theme.
He robbed so many chances the Avs had, including on Valeri Nichushkin, J.T. Compher, and Mikko Rantanen to name a few. His work in net eventually paid off at the other end when Kevin LeBanc put one top-shelf on Alexandar Georgiev to cut the lead in half.
However, MacKinnion would respond late in the frame with a set play off the faceoff. He received the puck right in the circle and was able to get it through the body of Kahkonen and a 3-1 lead with 20 minutes to go.
From here though, the Avs took their foot a little bit off the gas. They weren’t nearly being as punctual and getting the same chances as they had been before. This led the Sharks to get a few shots on Georgiev and test him and the defense some.
The tests would eventually pass for San Jose, as they got two goals in quick succession. First, Jacob Peterson corralled one in front and was able to convert on the power play for the Sharks. Then just two minutes later, LeBanc got his second of the night with another corralled puck in front and put it up high again on Georgiev to tie it at three.
It was a dogfight from there, one which needed the extra frame. But, due to results elsewhere with the Calgary Flames losing to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Avs got the only point they needed to officially clinch their spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But of course, they wanted the second one also.
It was a battle in overtime, a good 3-on-3 period which saw several rushes for both teams, turnovers galore, and some huge saves. Particularly, Georgiev robbed LeBanc of a game-ending hat trick on a 2-on-0 in spectacular fashion, reaching all the way over to his left and reading the play all the way.
It led to the eventual MacKinnon breakaway to seal the game and record his 100th point of the season in an astonishing fashion.
The Avs were in control for the majority of the game, as was expected against a team who is very much in the running for Connor Bedard. The stretch in the third period where they took their foot off the gas was a little concerning at the time, but it was mostly due to the fact also the Avs were getting goalie’d by Kahkonen. He eventually made 38 saves on the night but couldn’t do enough to stop the onslaught.
The onslaught came from the top line. Of course, MacKinnon got to point 100 on the year for the first time in his career. Rodrigues helped with a goal, and boy was Rantanen so unlucky to not get goal 50 in this one either. The Avs were looking for him all night long, looking for him to finish the play with eight shots. However, none of them found twine. He’ll have another good shot Thursday night against these same Sharks if he plays as he did last night.
Meanwhile, the win of course is big outside of individual milestones. Colorado officially clinched their spot in the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. It may have looked bleak at times, especially in the down period in December with everybody injured and on the outside looking in, but a dominant second half of the season has pulled them through. Furthermore, the Avs finally are back on top of the Central Division, with 98 points for the first time since November. They are tied with both the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars but hold the tiebreaker on points percentage. With still a game in hand on both teams, it’s going to come all the way down to the wire on who the Avs will face in two weeks' time.
Colorado will stay in San Jose as they play them once again on Thursday night. This unique stretch of the schedule is a nod to playing in the pandemic, in the same city on two different nights. It’s been praised before on how nice this scheduling is, and we’ll see if the Avs benefit from it or if it’s implemented more in the future. Regardless, puck drop Thursday night is another late one at 8:30 p.m. MT.