The Colorado Avalanche took care of business against another bottom-dweller on Monday night. It should have been a night of celebration.
Unfortunately, an injury to one of their top forwards changed the mood of the entire night.
The Canadiens, sitting second to last in the Eastern Conference, did not stand a chance. The Avalanche came out flying, taking advantage of a team in the middle of a six game losing streak. The road team scored four goals in the first 16 minutes on their way to an 8-4 win over Montreal.
The win allows the Avalanche to jump over Winnipeg in the standings. They now sit in third place in the Central Division with 80 points.
Now, here comes the bad news. Artturi Lehkonen, who led the way offensively with two goals, was unable to finish the game due to injury. After the game, it was announced that he has a broken finger. He will fly back to Denver to have surgery. A real tough break for a player who set a career high in goals earlier in the evening.
Cale Makar and Valeri Nichushkin also chipped in with three point nights each. It was a team effort, though. 13 of the 18 skaters on the Avalanche roster registered a point.
Alexandar Georgiev finished with 15 saves.
Four different Canadians scored, including Josh Anderson, who scored his 20th of the year.
The Avalanche came out flying and stomped on the throats of the Canadiens right away.
Just 2:59 into the game, Lehkonen, playing his first game in Montreal since being traded away last March, got the Avalanche on the board. The puck came out to Logan O’Connor high in the offensive zone, and he let a wrister go towards the net. Lehkonen, who was battling in front of the net, got his stick on it, deflecting the puck past Jake Allen.
That goal gave the Avalanche the early one goal lead, but they were not done. Not even close. A little over three minutes later, Byram put on a show.
The young defenseman took a bounce pass off the boards from Sam Girard, and entered the zone with speed. He went right around the defenseman Guhle, cut straight to the net, and beat Allen on the forehand.
And two minutes later, Matt Nieto extended the lead to three. The veteran took a nice pass from Lars Eller high in the zone, and was given a clear lane to the net. He deked right around Allen, depositing his 12th goal of the season into the back of the net. The Avalanche lead was now three. With an assist on the goal, Eller picked up his first point since being acquired from Washington.
Just moments after the home crowd gave him a standing ovation in his return, Lehkonen found the back of the net again. On the powerplay, Mikko Rantanen let a shot go from high in the zone. It hit Lehkonen’s body in front of the net, and trickled past Allen, giving the Avalanche the 4-0 lead. The crowd actually gave him another big cheer after the goal, something you rarely see for an opposing player.
Josh Anderson got the Canadiens on the board late in the first, and the Avalanche carried a 4-1 lead into the second intermission.
The Avalanche made sure that goal didn’t change the momentum of the game. Just like they did in the first, they came out flying to start the middle period.
The top line for the Avalanche, which was the only line not to chip in offensively in the first, put on a passing clinic. All five players on the ice touched the puck in the span of five seconds. Mikko Rantanen was the beneficiary, smacking home the rebound on an Evan Rodrigues shot.
And two minutes later, the second line showed off their passing skills.
Lehkonen found himself with the puck along the wall on the right wing. He sent a cross-ice pass in front to Valeri Nichushkin. The big Russian looked backdoor, and hit a wide-open J.T. Compher for another easy goal.
The Canadiens scored another late goal, this time on the powerplay. Denis Gurianov got his own rebound after his initial shot was blocked by Girard. He sent a quick shot past a screened Georgiev, cutting the lead to 6-2.
With the score being what it was, a tame third period was to be expected. It was anything but tame.
The teams exchanged four goals in the final period, and things got feisty. There were multiple scrums, including a wrestling match between Byram and Pezzetta that ended both their nights.
The highlight of the third period was a Nathan MacKinnon powerplay goal. The star must have felt left out, as he was one of the few who hadn’t picked up a point on any of the first six goals. He took a drop pass in the neutral zone and just flew past everyone, cutting to the middle and chipping it past Allen for the 7-2 lead.
Nichushkin added a late powerplay goal, and the Avalanche walked out of the Bell Centre with an 8-4 victory. The win is important in the standings, but now all eyes turn to Lehkonen’s injury. The regular season ends one month from today, and the Avalanche will need him back for the playoffs.
The Avalanche will stay in Canada for a few more days. On Wednesday, they head to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. The game starts at 5 PM MST.