A tough road trip for the Colorado Avalanche ended on a high note.
For the most part.
The offense for the Avalanche came alive for the first time after the All-Star break, giving Alexandar Georgiev some much needed goal support. That goal support launched the Avalanche to a big 5-3 victory over the Florida Panthers. After a tough start to the trip, they head home with three of a possible six points. Not great, but not terrible either.
The news was not all good, unfortunately. Defenseman Erik Johnson blocked a shot in the first period and was unable to return to the game. The team did not have an update on him postgame. The Avalanche were already without Cale Makar, who flew back to Denver after taking a hit to the head against the Penguins.
Nathan MacKinnon scored two goals for the Avalanche. Matt Nieto, Devon Toews, and Logan O’Connor added the others. Both J.T. Compher and Mikko Rantanen contributed two assists.
Georgiev finished with 41 saves.
Alexander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, and Sam Bennett scored the goals for the Panthers.
The Avalanche got the strong start they desperately needed.
And they did it down a man.
A little under four minutes into the game, with Erik Johnson in the penalty box, O’Connor broke through for the first time in three months. Andrew Cogliano tossed a pass O’Connor’s way that hit the defender, and the 26 year old forward smacked the rebound past Bobrovsky, giving the Avalanche the early one goal lead.
That lead was extended just five minutes later.
After creating a turnover, J.T. Compher stood behind the net, and found Matt Nieto in the slot. Nieto fired the puck past Bobrovsky, and the lead was now two. The Avalanche carried that lead into the second period.
Things got a little crazy in the middle period.
A little over seven minutes into the period, Ekblad floated a wrist shot through a screen. The seeing eye shot found it’s way past Georgiev, putting the Panthers within one. Just a minute later, Sam Bennett tied it, as he came in alone down the wing and lasered it over the goalie’s shoulder.
It looked like things might be falling apart for the Avalanche. Instead, they rebounded. And fast.
Just 25 seconds later, MacKinnon created space along the wall, hitting Bowen Byram for a shot from the center point. The rebound went directly to a pinching Toews, who returned the lead back to the Avalanche.
Then the powerplay went to work.
With just under six minutes left in the second, a scramble led to a bouncing puck finding a wide open MacKinnon in the high slot. Rather than firing it right away, he settled it down and ripped it over Bobrovsky’s shoulder, restoring the two goal lead.
A lead they carried into the third period.
The Panthers pushed really hard in the third period, throwing 16 shots at Georgiev. They cut the lead to one with under 10 minutes left, when Barkov scored after being left alone in front.
But they couldn’t find that tying goal. MacKinnon scored an empty net goal to seal the game, giving the Avalanche a much needed 5-3 victory.
The win will keep the Avalanche in third place in the Central Division, as they hit the 60 point barrier.
Now the Avalanche will head home for one game, when they get another crack at the Tampa Bay Lightning this Tuesday. The game starts at 7 PM MST.