With five games left in the regular season, the Avalanche have some work to do if they want home ice through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Going into Thursday’s game, Colorado trailed Vegas by four points with one game in hand. The Avalanche will meet the Golden Knights on Monday following their series with the LA Kings this weekend, then host the Kings again to close out the 2020-21 season.
Just before the start of Thursday’s game, it was announced that Avs star center Nathan MacKinnon would not play due to an “lower body injury.” Skating in his place would be Tyson Jost who had won over 50% of his face off draws in the last four games. Fans have had their eyes on newcomer Alex Newhook who would skate in his second NHL game.
The game got off to a quick start when Kings forward Carl Grundstrom shot the puck on net from the left circle that created a big rebound off Philipp Grubauer’s right pad. The puck went right to Brendan Lemieux’s stick and he put the Kings up 1-0 early.
But it wasn’t long before Colorado got the equalizer. Los Angeles was called for too many men, which put the NHL’s 8th best powerplay on the ice. One minute into the penalty, defenseman Cale Makar found Mikko Rantanen for a one-timer that beat goaltender Cal Petersen high stick side. With that goal, Rantanen eclipsed the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career.
That's the big 3 0 for Mikko Rantanen this season. pic.twitter.com/7pAPSQ3nE7
— NHL (@NHL) May 8, 2021
In the second period, it was Colorado who got off to the fast start. Forward Tyson Jost got a great pass from defenseman Jacob MacDonald, then he was able to fire the puck on net hoping for a rebound to reach a streaking Mikko Rantanen. However, the low shot somehow got past Cal Petersen and went into the net.
— x – Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) May 8, 2021
Following the game, head coach Jared Bednar talked about Jost and said, “I thought he was good tonight. He worked hard. He was a little fancy with the puck in the offensive zone a couple of times. When guys start to play with Mikko and Landy, they start to change but he skated, he made plays… He made a good decision to put the puck on net with Mikko going there and it goes in so I thought he was a real good 200 foot player for us tonight.”
The Avs would strike again halfway into the second period when Cale Makar skated through traffic and put the puck past a lunging Cal Petersen. Makar would become the first Avalanche defenseman to reach the 40 point mark in their first two seasons. Rookie Alex Newhook would also receive his first NHL point on the play as he tallied the secondary assist.
During the intermission when asked about the accomplishment, Makar said “I don’t really think about that at all. I don’t know if I would be doing this if I wasn’t around these guys on the team. All the credit goes to them for setting me up or putting the puck in the back of the net. We’re so skilled that for us it comes down to competing. Our compete does all the talking and our skill takes over after that.”
One downside for Colorado during the second period was when defenseman Patrick Nemeth crashed hard into the boards while fighting for a puck. He went straight off the ice and did not return to play.
Cale Makar is so good pic.twitter.com/L2AObsGikE
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) May 8, 2021
The Kings made things interesting with under three minutes to play when Gabe Vilardi put back a Lias Andersson rebound past Grubauer. The Kings capitalized on a turnover by Nazem Kadri in the defensive zone. However the Avs were able to hold on and get two much needed points in the Honda West division.
Gabriel Vilardi picking up the rebound. pic.twitter.com/99ZYcWLTR9
— LA Kings (@LAKings) May 8, 2021
With the the Wild and Knights both winning in overtime, no teams made any ground in the standings on Friday night. The Avs play the Kings again Saturday in LA with both the Wild and Knight in action again as well. With just four games remaining, the Avalanche need to make every point count.