The Colorado Avalanche were embarrassed the last time they were at Ball Arena.
On Wednesday night, they completely flipped the script.
Just four nights after losing 8-2 to the St. Louis Blues at home, Colorado went to work, dominating the Anaheim Ducks on their way to an 8-2 victory of their own. It was a total team effort, with everyone on the fourth line scoring a goal, and Valeri Nichushkin leading the way with two of his own. Cale Makar added three assists, giving him 17 on the season, while Joel Kiviranta picked up his first career regular season three point game…
Alexandar Georgiev continued his steady play, stopping 15 of the 17 shots sent his way, but the team in front of him made his life very easy. The goaltender even chipped in with an assist of his own.
It feels like we’ve been waiting weeks for the Avalanche to come out firing on all cylinders. That finally happened on Wednesday night.
The ice was tilted for entirety of period one, with the Avalanche dominating play from start to finish, and outshooting the Ducks 17-3.
Colorado got the first powerplay of the game, and although they didn’t score on it, they did manage to gain some momentum. With a large portion of the second unit still on the ice, the Avalanche picked up the opening goal of the game off some hard work.
Tomas Tatar outmuscled someone at the offensive blueline to keep the puck in the zone. His initial pass went through Ross Colton’s skates, and landed right on the stick of Jack Johnson. The veteran’s shot bounced off Dostal’s chest and into the slot, creating some chaos. Sam Girard (yes, THAT Sam Girard) crashed the net, and while his initial poke at the puck was stopped, he found the rebound and deposited it into the back of the net for his first goal of the year.
The domination continued, and exactly six minutes later, the Avalanche extended their lead to two.
Valeri Nichushkin, who started the entire play with a strong zone entry, crashed to the front of the net after sending it to Cale Makar at the point. Makar passed it to his defensive partner, Devon Toews, who had a clean lane for a shot on net. The big Russian deflected it past Dostal, making it 2-0.
Even though the Ducks were handed two powerplay opportunities, they generated nothing from them. The best opportunity actually came shorthanded off the stick of Miles Wood, but Dostal stopped his breakaway shot with his blocker.
With under a minute left, the Ducks did manage to score on just their second shot of the game, as Carrick deflected a Radko Gudas shot past Georgiev. An unfortunate goal to give up for Colorado, but they were clearly the better team, and deserved to be ahead.
The Ducks came out a little stronger in the second, but Alexandar Georgiev, while not tested all that much, was strong in net, stopping all 10 shots sent his way.
Anaheim had a great opportunity early in the period, as Mikko Rantanen took an undisciplined four-minute minor penalty. A strong effort by Logan O’Connor to draw a penalty off pure hustle negated two of those minutes, and the penalty kill did the rest.
With a little over five minutes left in the second, the fourth line went to work, putting Colorado back up by two. Joel Kiviranta did a great job retrieving the puck along the wall on the forecheck, and handed it off to Logan O’Connor. Fredrik Olofsson got lost in the coverage in the high slot, and one-timed an O’Connor shot off Dostal’s glove and into the net for his second goal of the season.
Colorado had other opportunities to extend the lead, including Tomas Tatar missing a wide open net at one point, but carried the 3-1 lead into the third period.
Coming into the game, no team had more third period comebacks than the Anaheim Ducks.
Having just played the night before in Nashville, tonight would not be one of those comeback nights, and the Avalanche weren’t about to give them any glimmer of hope.
3:53 into the period, the third line essentially put an end to the game. Great edge work behind the Avalanche net by Makar started a breakout, as he hit Miles Wood along the left boards. Wood sent a pass all the way across the ice to Logan O’Connor, who chipped it past the Ducks defenseman to a flying Ross Colton, who beat Dostal on the blocker side. A beautiful goal by a line that has looked superb since being put together.
A strong shift by the second line drew a powerplay, and Nichushkin added his second of the game on a goal nearly identical to the one he scored just the other night in Seattle. Makar shot the puck directly for Nichushkin’s stick, and his easy deflection made it 5-1.
The Ducks added their second after a breakdown in front of the Avalanche net, but the fourth line for the Avalanche would strike two more times, as both Kiviranta and Andrew Cogliano scored goals on ugly breakdowns by the Ducks in a 21 second span.
The top line and defensive pairing added a globetrotter-esque goal with under five minutes remaining, and the route was complete.
Just like they needed to, the Avalanche stepped on the throats of a tired Ducks squad, and showed once again that they are a dominant third period team when they have the lead.
Colorado now heads to Dallas for a massive game against their biggest competition in the division, the Stars. That game starts this Saturday at 6 PM MST.