The Colorado Avalanche needed to win a big game against a playoff caliber team, and they did exactly that on Saturday night. They also got some help from the Vegas Golden Knights, and suddenly, the Central Division title is in their sights again.
A smart challenge played a huge role in the win, and the Avalanche got a strong performance from their veteran third pair.
+ The Law Firm of Johnson and Johnson
Their worst shift of the game came on the disallowed goal, so we can sort of wash that one away. Beyond that, they were fantastic all night long. They kept the puck in the offensive zone most of the evening, and Jack in particular had plenty of good looks from the point. Erik has been really solid since returning from injury, and games like this show how valuable it is to have a third pair you can trust.
+ The Goaltender Interference Challenge
I’m sure that most Avalanche fans had the same reaction as I did when Bednar decided to challenge that Stars goal.
But as you watched more and more replays, you saw what the staff saw. The impressive thing is that Bednar said he saw it right away. What a huge challenge it was, because it changed the game in a big way. No one knows what goaltender interference is anymore, so a challenge is never a sure thing, but this one worked perfectly.
+ Alexandar Georgiev’s Bounce-Back
Bednar kind of called out Georgiev after the last game, talking about his turnover and then saying it wasn’t his best night. Georgiev responded in a big way.
In the first period, the Stars had all of their best chances. Georgiev stopped Johnston with his toe after MacKinnon got the scoring started, and then stopped Lindell when he was all alone in front.
You could tell he was feeling good. So good that he took a shot at the empty net in the third period. Did it get close? No, not even close, but you love the confidence in him taking a rip at it.
+ Nathan MacKinnon
MacKinnon did not have his best game against the Wild, so you knew a bounce-back game was on the horizon. That’s exactly what the Avalanche got on Saturday night, but it wasn’t just the offense. He was back covering on the first goal, and made the smart play to just send it in the corner for the Avalanche to fight for it.
To start the third period, he set the tone, following Roope Hintz through the neutral zone and cutting him off with a check when he got the puck. The play turned the other way, and MacKinnon entered the zone, waiting for Toews to hit the blueline for a one-timer. That’s the type of shift you need from your leader, and one of the reasons why the Avalanche came out on top.
+ Evan Rodrigues
Before he was injured earlier this month, he was getting back on track playing with MacKinnon and Rantanen. Now, there’s a lot of players who could probably get their game back on track playing with those two, but Rodrigues‘ best moments this year came on a line with MacKinnon. He played well again, although his finish was a little off. Ended the night with the best possession numbers among all the forwards.
A tough night for this duo, as most of the Stars best chances came with these two on the ice. When Byram was on the ice, the Avalanche only controlled 20% of the shots on net, and with Girard, it was only 23%. Against a bigger team, a duo like this might struggle, and that was the case. They weren’t out for any goals against, though.
+ Lars Eller
I had a feeling Eller was going to have a good night, because I walked in behind his family. I believe it’s the first time they’ve been able to make it out to Colorado since the trade. The first five minutes or so were mostly all Dallas, and the only player who was able to get any momentum going for the Avalanche was Eller. He was brought in to play against a big team like Dallas, and it showed on Saturday night. Good night in the face-off circle as well.
+ Mikko Rantanen’s Hunt for 50 is Back On
The last two games, Rantanen has had plenty of chances to hit the back of the net, but some of his shots have been sailing over the net. It happened again tonight, including a powerplay in the third period where he nearly labeled one up high but sent it a little over the net.
The hunt for 50 is back on now, though. From over 140 feet away, Rantanen labeled a shot off the cross-bar and in. He’s now just one goal away from being the first Avalanche player to hit 50 goals since Milan Hejduk did it back in 2002-03. The unfortunate part is that there’s a good chance he hits it when the Avalanche are in San Jose, meaning the goal could come at 10:30 PM on a weeknight in California. Not ideal, but hey, as long as he hits it, that’s all that matters.