If you picked Mikko Rantanen to score his 50th goal of the season tonight, you are one of many. If you picked him to get his 50th goal and a hat trick tonight, you might want to get some lottery numbers.
Rantanen’s big night was only the start of the Colorado Avalanche’s second victory in a row against the San Jose Sharks, 6-2. After a tougher-than-needed outing last time out against the Sharks this easy win was greatly appreciated.
If you played the first period from tonight and the first period from Tuesday’s game against the Sharks I likely would not have been able to tell you the difference, other than the score.
It was another sloppy, apathetic start for the Avalanche against the Sharks and they paid for it. 15 minutes into the game, Erik Karlsson, who was quieter than usual last game out against the Avs made his mark with his 23rd goal of the season. After a faceoff win for the Sharks and a shot from the point that Alexandar Georgiev poorly controlled, Karlsson pounced on a loose puck and put it through Georgiev’s five-hole to give the Sharks a well-deserved one-goal lead.
Less than a minute after the moment Avs fans were waiting for all last contest against the Sharks finally came. Rantanen got his hard-earned 50th goal of the season to tie the game.
The spotlight was on Rantanen after the goal, and for good reason, but it was Nathan MacKinnon’s terrific rush that created this goal. MacKinnon picked the puck up at his own blue line, rushed through the neutral zone, and perfectly executed a give-and-go with Sam Girard at the blue line. Said give and go gave MacKinnon all sorts of space to head to the net, which he took to get a shot off, but Kappo Kahkonen was up to the task. Unfortunately for Kahkonen, he couldn’t stop his countryman Rantanen as he slid the rebound in for his aforementioned 50th tuck of the season.
The monkey was off the back and Rantanen had awoken. Fortunately for the Sharks, they had the first intermission and whole two-and-a-half minutes of the second period of peace before Rantanen officially unleashed his onslaught. Rantanen’s first goal was fairly greasy, but this one was cleaner than a duck after being washed with Dawn.
MacKinnon’s hard forecheck gave him possession and he immediately fed the puck to Evan Rodrigues in the slot. Rodrigues easily could have shot that puck and likely scored himself, but instead, he made a beautiful pass to Rantanen who rolled his wrists as smooth as butter to get the puck to his backhand. At that point, Kahkonen was already on his stomach in the crease, but Rantanen wanted to show off his elite backhander so he picked the top corner for a touch of pizazz.
MacKinnon, who had been a big factor in both of Rantanen’s goals, wanted one of his own. He somehow find his way to the point and threw a puck on net through a few legs, including Kappo Kahkonen, who didn’t see the puck until it hit the camera box in the back of the net.
The floodgates were opened at this point. Which is usually something that would be good for Sharks, but not these ones.
Rantanen got his third goal of the game and 52nd of the season, again thanks in large part to MacKinnon. On TV you could see this goal unfold as Rantanen parked himself at the top of the crease with his hands choked up on his stick presenting it for MacKinnon to dish off to. MacKinnon didn’t let his linemate down and gave him a perfect pass to extend the Avs’ lead and complete the hat trick.
The Avalanche didn’t get to enjoy the moment too long before Karlsson flexed what is likely going to win him the Norris Trophy this year.
In a beautiful display of skating and patience, the Swede put the works on Alex Newhook and found Steven Lorentz wide open on the backdoor to cut the Avs lead to two. Former Av Jacob MacDonald also picked up a secondary assist on the play.
At this point the star players had shown their stuff, now it was time for the depth to shine, or rather the time for Ben Meyers to shine.
After missing on a breakaway chance earlier in the game the recently called-up Meyers was not going to miss again. He broke his 31-game goalless streak with a nifty five-hole goal on the recently subbed-in James Reimer and got the Avs lead back to three.
Three goals is a lead we have seen lost many a time in the NHL, and even against the Sharks it can feel a little uncertain, but Ben Meyers was feeling it and knew a four-goal lead was much safer than a three-goal lead.
Matt Nieto forced a turnover in the neutral zone on his former team and handed the puck off to Meyers who dropped the puck to Alex Newhook as he entered the zone. Newhook finally got off his pointless drought with a beautiful pass to Meyers, who actually whiffed on the puck, but it went off his skate and in to give us our final score of 6-2.
Games like these at this point in the season don’t have many takeaways. The Avs just beat the snot out of an inferior hockey team with nothing to play for.
The big positives from this game are Rantanen and Meyers, both with multiple goals, but MacKinnon also had a dominating performance tonight. Rantanen and MacKinnon have been dominant all season and clearly don’t intend to stop anytime soon. They’re just doing their thing and casually being better than everyone else in more ways than one.
Those two you kind of expect this from, but Meyers was a delightful surprise tonight. Ever since his second stint up with the Avs, he has just fit in so well and he had his fair share of chances to show for it earlier, but he couldn't seem to get rewarded for it. Tonight he finally did in a big way. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the beginning of him finally pushing for a consistent lineup spot.
The Avalanche take on the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday in a big game. They have yet to beat the Kings this season and the Kings have been on a bit of a skid lately. Should be a good one. Mile High Hockey will have you covered then with puck drop at another late 8:30 p.m. MT.