The Avalanche were back in Denver this weekend after a mini west coast trip that ended with a split with the San Jose Sharks. The bad news is that star center Nathan MacKinnon is out after he caught a high hit from a Sharks player. Colorado was already on the mend with Cale Makar battling injuries, but being shorthanded seems pretty par for the course for this team. The Avs hosted the Ducks Friday night and came back in dramatic fashion to beat Anaheim in overtime courtesy of a Valeri Nichushkin goal on a beautiful drive to the net. This was Nichuskin’s breakout game this season, however, an emerging story is Jacob MacDonald, who continues to be a reliable piece for Head Coach Jared Bednar’s blue line.
The game Saturday night started off with a lot of speed from both teams, but there was not much puck possession. The Avs struggled to transition out of their defensive zone cleanly, as the Ducks mucked up the neutral zone as much as possible. Anaheim played a very simple road game, making sure they had fresh legs and continued chipping the puck in deep.
Nichushkin was again noticeable, as he was strong on the forecheck and made a really nice steal later in the game. He has been strong on the puck and been putting a lot of shots on net, even if they are not necessarily quality chances. The Avs were clearly not on their game, as they made poor defensive zone turnovers, notably from Kiefer Sherwood and Ryan Graves. Goaltender Hunter Miska kept Colorado in the game, except for a miscue where Rickard Rakell fired a one-timer right off the faceoff and in.
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) March 7, 2021
The Ducks led the Avs 1–0 after the first period, which may have been the sloppiest 20 minutes the Avs played all season. There was limited time in the offensive zone, they had issues connecting on passes out of their own end and Ryan Miller did not seem like he was challenged with any of the Avs’ shots. On the bright side, MacDonald continued to impress. Playing with Samuel Girard lets MacDonald play the conservative game that the Avs need right now: No turnovers, make smart plays and help soak up minutes.
The second period was a complete 180. It started off with a beautiful goal from former Denver Pioneer Troy Terry, but after that, it was all Avs. After Colorado did not score on the power play, Nichushkin found a streaking Logan O’Connor, who put the puck past Miller for the first Avalanche goal of the night. You could tell the Avs were on a mission, as they had a little more pep in their step.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 7, 2021
It seemed like something clicked, because Colorado started getting pucks deep and cycling in the offensive zone. They ended up drawing another penalty, and this time making the Ducks pay when Mikko Rantanen collected a rebound from a Girard shot from the point and shot it off Miller and into the net. It was great seeing the Avs get a creative goal like that. Often times, it seems like they are trying to make things a little too perfect. Following the power play, the Avalanche were still buzzing and shooting from virtually everywhere.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 7, 2021
The third period started with the Avs scoring two goals within one minute of each other. Rantanen scored his second of the night on a shot through traffic from the point and Brandon Saad got his driving hard to the net for a nice tip in. At that point, the Avs had scored four straight goals after the Ducks got the first two of the game, but there was plenty of time left in the game.
Terry found the back of the net for his second of the contest, as he shot through bodies in the slot that Miska did not seem to have his eyes on. The Ducks had all the momentum, but the Avalanche were pushing back. Miller had to make a few key desperation saves to keep Anaheim in the game, then Kevin Shattenkirk tied the game on a late Ducks power play goal. The game would head to overtime again, but the Avs would get into trouble early in the extra frame when Rantanen would go off for a tripping minor giving the Ducks a 4-on-3 advantage. The Avalanche started off strong on the penalty kill, but it was Ryan Getzlaf who sealed the overtime win for the Ducks with a tip in past Miska.
It is a positive sign that the Avs came away with three points this weekend, but Saturday’s game definitely got away from them. Hockey returns on Monday with a pair of games with Arizona before the Kings come to Denver over the weekend. It looks like the Avalanche will get some players back from injury too with MacKinnon and Matt Calvert returning to practice. It was also noted in yesterday’s broadcast that Erik Johnson has been placed on long-term injured reserve. The Avs will need to tighten up and get some much needed points this month to separate themselves from the log jam that is the Honda West Division.