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Avalanche Destroy Ducks 5-1; Stage Set For Huge Divisional Matchup Wednesday



Avalanche Nichushkin

The Minnesota Wild ruined the chances for the Colorado Avalanche to move into first place on Monday night in the Central.

But on Wednesday, the Avalanche have a chance to take care of business themselves.

The Avalanche did what they were expected to do on Monday night, recovering from a slow start and dominating the Anaheim Ducks on their way to an easy 5-1 victory on the road. Nathan MacKinnon, Bowen Byram and Cale Makar led the way with two points each, and Jonas Johansson played well in net, stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced.

With the win, the Avalanche move one point behind the Wild for second in the Central Division. It just so happens that’s who they play next, as the Wild come to town Wednesday night. A regulation or overtime win would move the Avalanche into sole possession of first place in the Central Division.

The Avalanche now control their own destiny. That’s all any team wants at this stage of the season.

First Period

It was a lackadaisical start for the Avalanche, not unlike their start to the Sunday afternoon game against Arizona.

And the Ducks took advantage of some of the top guys on the Avalanche not playing at their best early.

12 minutes into the game, Cale Makar went to pass it up the middle in the defensive zone to Nathan MacKinnon, but his pass was behind the star center. It floated out into the slot, where Silfverberg collected it, and hit a crashing Grant, who deflected it past Johansson for the early Ducks lead.

But that goal seemed to be a wake-up call for the Avalanche, as they took the game over from there.

After Sam Girard picked off a pass in the neutral zone, the Avalanche controlled the puck in the offensive zone for an extended period of time. Eventually, the Ducks turned it over to Bowen Byram, who carried it around the zone, before settling on a wrist shot from the boards. Logan O’Connor provided the screen, and Byram’s shot got past Gibson, tying the game at one.

And with less than 20 seconds left in the period, Nathan MacKinnon woke up, and took over.

The superstar sent Scott Harrington into a spin cycle, stopping on a dime twice, before moving up in the zone. He turned around, fired a wrister through a screen, and beat Gibson up high, giving the Avalanche the lead with under eight seconds left in the first. Not a bad way to end a period, if you ask me.

Second Period

The second period was all Avalanche, outside of the last few minutes when the Ducks finally got out of their own end. At one point, the shots were 13-3 before the Ducks closed the gap late.

Just over two minutes into the second, Jack Johnson (yes, Jack Johnson) extended the Avalanche lead to two. After taking a pass from Denis Malgin, he walked the line, faked a shot a few times, and fired a screened shot past Gibson. It was his first of the year, and first in 159 games.

A little under two minutes later, Valeri Nichushkin scored his second in two nights, as he set up at the side of the net. The Ducks decided to leave him wide open, and Nathan MacKinnon spotted him for the easy goal, making it 4-1.

Both teams exchanged late powerplays, but neither team was able to capitalize. Jonas Johansson made a flurry of saves right after the Avalanche powerplay in his best moment of the evening. The Avalanche carried that three goal lead into the third period.

Third Period

In the third, the red-hot Avalanche powerplay was able to keep their scoring streak alive.

Byram sent a pass to the Evan Rodrigues in the bumper position in the slot, and Rodrigues didn’t get a whole lot on the shot. However, John Gibson went up to grab the puck and didn’t close his hand, allowing the rebound to pop out to Sam Girard. With a wide open net, Girard slapped the puck home, increasing the lead to 5-1, and extended the Avalanche powerplay goal streak to 12 games.

The Avalanche tried to add to the lead, even putting their top powerplay unit on the ice in the final three minutes, but had to settle for a 5-1 win over the Ducks.

The win sets the stage for the big matchup on Wednesday night with the Minnesota Wild. Maybe the best news of all is that the game is nationally televised for all to see. The game starts at 8 PM MST, and can be seen on TNT.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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