Last season, the Colorado Avalanche relied heavily on their stars to carry the load offensively. Those same stars did it again on Wednesday night, but if all goes according to plan, that won’t have to be the case all season long.
Mikko Rantanen picked up four points, including two goals of his own, and Nathan MacKinnon chipped in with three points, as the two stars led the Avalanche in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Cale Makar also chipped in with two points of his own.
Alexandar Georgiev, coming off an NHL leading 40 wins, was tremendous in net, stopping 34 of the 36 shots sent his way.
Regular season hockey is officially back! And in the first period, these two teams, who both have big plans this season, showed why they’re considered two of the best in the West.
The opening period was fast, physical, and quick, as both teams showed well. Shots ended 11-9 in favor of Los Angeles, but the top line for the Avalanche put together a tremendous passing play, getting the scoring started for the road team.
After a nice breakout by Cale Makar, Devon Toews jumped into the rush, which confused the Kings a bit. Once the puck was in the zone, Jonathan Drouin sent it behind the net to Rantanen, who did what he does best – find Nathan MacKinnon.
The big Finn sent a perfect pass to MacKinnon, who shot it past Cam Talbot’s blocker, giving the Avalanche the early one goal lead.
After that, things got testy when Kevin Fiala shot the puck into the Avalanche net after the whistle was already blown. Bowen Byram and Sam Girard took offense to it, and before you knew it, all 10 skaters on the ice were scrumming it up along the boards. It was a sign of things to come in the second period, as the game got chippier and chippier as the night went on.
MacKinnon’s goal was the only one in the first, and the Avalanche took the one goal lead into the second.
To start the second, Colorado’s elite skill was on display.
2:54 into the period, Cale Makar used Ryan Johansen as a screen on the powerplay, wiring a wrist shot through traffic over Talbot’s glove, giving the Avalanche the two goal lead.
Less than a minute later, Rantanen attacked Talbot’s glove side himself, sending a perfect shot over the goaltender from a difficult angle. In the span of 53 seconds, the Avalanche extended their lead to three.
This is when things started to get really testy.
Ross Colton and Phil Danault were battling off a face-off, when Danault took exception to Colton getting a shot in with his shoulder. The Kings center responded with a nasty slash across Colton’s wrist that went uncalled. Colton looked to be in significant pain, but stayed in the game.
A few minutes later, Dubois stuck his leg out on Fredrik Olofsson, taking a tripping penalty. That led to more chaos, with Logan O’Connor fighting Alex Laferriere. O’Connor got the best of him, if you ask me, but Laferriere tackled him to the ground at the end. The Avalanche seemed to think they were getting a 5 minute powerplay, but the refs reviewed the hit, and stuck with the minor penalty. Not sure I agree with that one…
The Kings got two goals back late in the period, including a goal after a missing icing, according to Jared Bednar. Kopitar dumped the puck in, and Georgiev couldn’t completely track it off the bounce, leaving a nice rebound out front. Byfield’s pass deflected off Makar’s stick past Georgiev, cutting the Avalanche lead to 3-2 heading into the third period.
In the third, the Avalanche held their own defensively, and killed off multiple Bowen Byram penalties. The solid penalty kill was a theme all night, with the new faces in Miles Wood and Ross Colton contributing to multiple clears.
After weathering the storm, Rantanen gave the Avalanche some breathing room, deflecting a Jack Johnson puck past Talbot, making it 4-2.
The Kings pulled the goaltender early to try to create some offense, but instead, the Avalanche sealed the game, with Miles Wood depositing the puck into an empty net.
Colorado walked out of Los Angeles with a 5-2 victory, and as you can tell from the video below, the team was plenty happy.
Happy team. pic.twitter.com/Ds7FpQUw3X
— Evan Rawal (@evanrawal) October 12, 2023
The Avalanche will continue their road trip no Saturday, when they head to San Jose to take on the Sharks. The game starts at 8 PM MST.