If you tuned in to Monday night’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and the Boston Bruins, you were treated to one of the better hockey games this season. Both teams played well, and gave the fans who showed up to Ball Arena their money’s worth, but only one team can walk away with two points.
And that team was the Avalanche.
Colorado played one of their most complete games of the season, controlling the play for all three periods. The only real issue? They couldn’t take care of business in regulation. The Avalanche scored the only goal of the shootout, defeating the Boston Bruins by a score of 4-3.
Mikko Rantanen, Logan O’Connor, and Sam Malinski scored the goals for Colorado. Valeri Nichushkin was the hero, scoring the only goal of the shootout, but Alexandar Georgiev played well, stopping all three Bruins shooters. In the first 65 minutes, Georgiev stopped 23 of 26 shots, including some big stops on a Boston powerplay in overtime.
I know people don’t love seeing away fans in the home building, but it adds to the fun of a regular season game in the middle of January. And Bruins fans made it very apparent they were in the house on Monday night.
Colorado was the team that came out with more jump, and in the first period, it looked like their pre-scouting identified one thing – shoot high on Swayman. A lot of the shots from the Avalanche early on looked like they were aimed at Swayman’s head. The Bruins netminder was strong early, but the Avalanche didn’t get enough traffic in front of him to make his life difficult.
The Avalanche got the first powerplay of the game, but the Bruins got the better looks while shorthanded. Georgiev stopped Charlie Coyle on a mini-break, and then Jake Debrusk on a full blown breakaway.
Boston got the next powerplay, and on their first real chance, Brad Marchand made them pay. After entering the zone, Marchand delayed and held onto the puck a little longer. He curled at the right face-off circle, let a screen set up, and fired a wicked wrister past Georgiev, giving the Bruins the early lead.
Colorado kept pushing though, and after Nathan MacKinnon drew a penalty, the powerplay went to work. Fantastic puck movement saw all five Avalanche skaters touch the puck in a short timespan, and it ended with MacKinnon feeding Rantanen for a deflection in front. The big Finn kneeled down, choked up on his stick, and tipped the puck off the cross-bar and in, tying the game at one.
Despite outshooting the Bruins 14-5 in the opening period, the Avalanche found themselves tied up heading into the intermission. They may have deserved a better fate, but that’s hockey.
If you love pure hard work and determination, it doesn’t get any better than the Avalanche goal 2:23 into the second.
At the end of a 1:21 shift, Logan O’Connor just outworked the Boston Bruins. He put pressure on Kevin Shattenkirk, pressuring the veteran defenseman, who ran into his own teammate. O’Connor corralled the puck, and fired it over Swayman’s glove, giving the Avalanche the 2-1 lead.
7:32 into the period, we saw the single most bizarre thing I’ve seen in an NHL game in a long time – both teams took a too many men on the ice penalty at the exact same time. Joel Kiviranta came onto the ice too early and touched the puck, so everyone assumed it was just on the Avalanche, but the replay showed the Bruins had six skaters on the ice as well. Something you may need see again.
After both penalties ended, the Avalanche skaters got caught on the ice a little too long. With the long change in the second, that can happen. Former DU star Danton Heinen threw the puck on net, and Georgiev kicked a rebound right in front, which John Beecher deposited, tying the game up. A frustrated Georgiev shattered his stick on the post, something we’ve seen a little too often this season.
Colorado was rewarded at the end of the second for another strong period with a lead. Ryan Johansen, sent out to win an offensive zone face-off, won one cleanly back to Sam Malinski. The 25 year old defender did his best impersonation of Cale Makar, walking the blueline and creating a lane for himself. He faked Zacha one way, and sent a wrist shot through a screen, beating Swayman and sending the Avalanche into the intermission with a 3-2 lead. An impressive goal from a defenseman who keeps showing he’s got the skill to play at the NHL level.
As expect, the Bruins came out in the third period pushing to tie the game. On the opening shift, they nearly scored, but it didn’t take long for them to find the equalizer.
On an extended shift in the offensive zone, Charlie Coyle spun away from his defender, and sent a pass to Brad Marchand, who was cutting to the net. The puck seemed to bounce off Marchand’s shinpads, but that was all that was needed, as it got past Georgiev, tying the game up.
That goal didn’t deter the Avalanche, though. Playing with essentially three lines, they kept pushing, drawing two penalties on the Bruins. The powerplay for Colorado was unsuccessful, including one with under three minutes remaining.
Neither team was able to break the tie, and the game headed to overtime.
3-on-3 saw some action, but both teams were just a bit off. The best chance for the Avalanche came from Jonathan Drouin, as Cale Makar burst past everyone to create a 2-on-1. Drouin just couldn’t corral the puck quick enough, and his shot trickled into Swayman’s legs.
Logan O’Connor got caught holding Pavel Zacha, giving the Bruins a powerplay for the final 1:58 of the extra period. Luckily for the Avalanche, they have the ultimate equalizer – Cale Makar.
Makar played nearly all of the 4-on-3 penalty kill, and killed off a large chunk of the Bruins powerplay by himself, rushing the puck up the ice twice for two great chances. He nearly ended the game at the buzzer, but didn’t quite get his shot off in time.
This great game needed a shootout to decide a winner.
At one end, Alexandar Georgiev, historically very strong in shootouts, held up his end of the bargain. He poked the first shot from Debrusk away, gave Charlie Coyle nothing, and stopped David Pastrnak’s attempt. At the other end, both MacKinnon and Rantanen couldn’t beat Swayman on the glove side…but Valeri Nichushkin found a way. The big Russian won the game for Colorado, scoring the only goal of the shootout, and sending Colorado fans home happy.
With the 4-3 victory, the Avalanche stay in second place in the Central, and head into a big matchup on Wednesday night with some momentum. They’ll host the visiting Vegas Golden Knights, looking for some revenge after the matchup early in the season. That game starts at 8 PM MST.