The Colorado Avalanche needed a big time performance from their goaltender to shut down the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night. They got exactly that from Alexandar Georgiev, who played his best game in over a month, helping the home team take out the visiting Lightning.
Georgiev stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced, many of which were of the high-danger variety, leading Colorado to a 4-1 win. The netminder cut off his signature locks prior to morning skate, hoping that might lead to a fresh start in net.
It worked, at least for one night.
Ryan Johansen (two), Cale Makar, and Valeri Nichushkin were the goal scorers for the Avalanche. Tomas Tatar added two assists, and had one of his better games in a Colorado uniform.
After the slugfest that was Saturday night, the first period of this game was a welcome change. Lots of skill, lots of speed, and that resulted in lots of scoring chances.
Alexandar Georgiev, with his fresh new haircut, was really strong in net for the Avalanche. Colorado had to kill off two penalties, and were successful in doing so, thanks to some big saves from him. His biggest save of the period came at even strength, though.
After a Jack Johnson shot from the point was blocked, Nikita Kucherov, the leading scorer in the NHL, snuck behind Johnson. He took a pass and went in on a clear cut breakaway. The Russian winger tried to fool Georgiev by going against the grain, but the Avalanche netminder kept his glove in position, making the stop.
There would be only one goal in the first, and it belonged to Colorado.
A little over seven minutes in, Tomas Tatar chipped the puck out of the defensive zone past Victor Hedman. The towering defenseman lost his footing, and Ryan Johansen burst past him to gather the puck for a 2-on-1. Johansen used Jonathan Drouin as a decoy, and beat Vasilevsky clean on the blocker side, giving the Avalanche the only goal of the period.
Johansen kept that hot hand going early in the second period.
Brayden Point wheeled around the offensive zone and looked to have a decent chance at the net, but Tatar did a nice job blocking it. That sprung a 2-on-1 for Cale Makar and Tatar. The high-flying defenseman hit Tatar with a cross-crease pass, and the Slovak forward was robbed, but Vasilevsky kicked the rebound out into the slot and didn’t move. Johansen came in late and cleaned up the rebound, making it 2-0.
After the ensuing face-off, Tatar drew the first Lightning penalty of the game, sending Colorado to the powerplay, a powerplay that had scored in seven straight games.
Make it eight.
The top unit stayed on the ice for the entire powerplay, mostly because they kept the puck in the offensive zone. Their puck movement was crisp, and that wore down the Lightning penalty killers. With 3/4 of the man advantage over with, Makar let a wrist shot go from the point. It appeared to hit a Tampa forward, and snuck past Vasilevsky on the glove side, making the game 3-o.
Colorado was given plenty of chances to blow the game wide open, as they got three more powerplays the rest of the period. One of those powerplays came after a successful coaches challenge, as a Tampa goal was overturned due to it being offside. However, the Avalanche couldn’t cash in on the man-advantage opportunities, including a 49 second 5-on-3.
It looked like the Avalanche were going to get out of the period up 3-0, but their late period struggles came back to bite them again. Anthony Cirelli snuck past Josh Manson with 30 seconds left for a breakaway, and finally solved Georgiev, cutting the lead back to two.
Colorado played about as perfect a third period as you can with the lead, at least to start. After giving up a ton of shots in the first two periods, they really tightened things up early, limiting Tampa to one shot in the first ten minutes of the final period.
In the final ten minutes, Georgiev was tested a bit more, with his biggest stop coming off Koepke in front of the net. Valeri Nichushkin scored with the net empty, sealing the game for the home team.
Things got feisty late, as Jeannot and Jack Johnson got into it. Jeannot threw a big hit on Johnson, and when the puck came back towards the Avalanche zone, Johnson lined up Eysimmont with a big hit at the blueline. Jeannot, for whatever reason, did not like that, and that led to some discussions. The refs handed out 10 minute misconducts to five different players, but the game was already over at that point.
With the 4-1 victory, the Avalanche now move to 15-6 on the season, and clearly on a roll. Their +21 goal differential is third best in the NHL.
Colorado now heads out on the road for three games, with their first stop in Arizona on Thursday. Colorado Hockey Now will be live at Mullet Arena for that game, so stay tuned for some road coverage.