Comeback complete, times 14.
After being down 3-0 in the first period, the Colorado Avalanche roared back with five unanswered goals to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-3 final Saturday night. Five different goalscorers from the top three lines made up for missing depth players and showed what the team is made of.
With three straight wins against three great teams in three different ways, the Avs have shown they are capable of winning. No matter who is in the lineup, Colorado is dangerous. Let’s see how it all unfolded in Ontario!
13 seconds into the game, the Avs had a great chance which found its way behind Martin Jones in the crease, but not beyond the goal line. But, not many knew this would be the closest Colorado would be to scoring.
Toronto would take control from here on out, starting with Max Domi letting one go from the point which hit Josh Manson’s chest. The deflection threw off Alexandar Georgiev, and it went in to get the lead for the Leafs.
Despite the Avs starting the game on a good note, they would fall behind as Toronto continued to grow increasingly into the game. With Georgiev doing his best to keep his team in it, he can’t do it all himself. It showed when Devon Toews couldn't control a bouncing puck, leading to Morgan Reilly backhanding it in.
THAT WAS RIELLY GROSS pic.twitter.com/yc8cBp3sww— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 14, 2024
The first line for Colorado did their best to keep Toronto in their zone after the second goal, but could not find the twine. At the other end, it would bite the Avs as they couldn’t clear their lines. With Georgiev flailing, Timothy Liljegren would be the beneficiary of it to grab the 3-0 lead into the room.
IT'S TIMOTHY LILJEGREN!!! pic.twitter.com/rPW8VaArXi— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 14, 2024
The Avs defense was called into action early after Kurtis MacDermid turned the puck over at the blue line. But Georgiev did a solid job stopping Pontus Holmberg at the far post.
Colorado would capitalize soon after after Mark Giordano was called for dragging down Jonathan Drouin. It would be Drouin who would score on yet another delayed penalty by the Leafs right in front, getting the Avs on the board.
After killing off a Logan O’Connor tripping penalty, Colorado continued to force the issue. Nathan MacKinnon nearly scored on the ensuing rush after the kill, but just couldn't quite beat Martin Jones.
But he and the team wouldn’t have to wait for long for the second goal. After MacKinnon just missed on a pass from Drouin, the puck would work its way around the first line in a great shift. Mikko Rantanen eventually finished off a Sam Girard shot and rebound to get Colorado within one heading into the intermission.
Colorado came out flying in the third looking to complete their 14th comeback of the season. It looked as though it was in the cards when Rantanen deflected a shot off the post just 18 seconds in.
It also looked as though it was coming to fruition after a hooking penalty on John Tavares. Despite all the great chances, nothing beat Jones cleanly on the man advantage. But the Avs didn’t have to wait long, as hometown hero Andrew Cogliano finished off a broken play to even the game up.
From there, it was an exhilarating exhibition of hockey with back-and-forth action, and the stars being involved. Auston Matthews was injured on a cross-check by Josh Manson, but continued on just fine and nearly scored right afterward.
The stars would make the difference in the end. Luckily for Avalanche fans, it would be their All-Star: MacKinnon, waiting out the Leafs and a diving Jake McCabe and sniping it past Jones to take the lead late.
Toronto would pull Jones late looking for the equalizer. But they would come to no avail and gave Ross Colton three chances at the empty net, finally hitting it at the third time of asking to finish off an incredible comeback.
The magic number for the Avalanche is 14. With the win after being down 3-0 in the first period, Colorado has now had 14 comeback wins this season, tying them with the New Jersey Devils for the most this season across the league. The help from depth was key in the end, especially the game-tying goal from Cogliano in front of his family and friends at home. It showed how much he and the entire team fight for every game despite falling behind early and often.
While fans might not want this to be the style of play for the entire season, it works. It especially has worked with different players every night. Tonight was no different, as Valeri Nichushkin did not play with an illness. But, they did see Josh Manson return to the lineup from injury. The Avs also lost Jack Johnson to a lower-body injury in the third period, and he did not return to the game. Regardless, it is MacKinnon and company who made the difference on the scoreboard while playing with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
A special shoutout does have to be given to Georgiev in net as well. Down 3-0 before the end of the first period, it would’ve been easy to pull him to try and give the Avs a different look as the game went on. But, Jared Bednar stuck with his guns and trusted his No. 1 netminder, and it paid off. His crucial saves as the team in front of him dug themselves out of the hole they put themselves in shouldn't go unnoticed. Particularly, his save on Holmberg at the far post after a MacDermid turnover early in the second period. It ended up being a big turning point in the game.
The second game of the road trip stays in Canada facing the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night. Puck drop is at 5:00 p.m. MT.