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Avalanche, Annunen Shutout Blackhawks For Second Time In A Week

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If only the Colorado Avalanche could play the Chicago Blackhawks every week.

If only.

For the second time in just four days, Justus Annunen shutout the Blackhawks, as the Avalanche beat the visiting Chicago squad by a score of 5-0. The 23 year old goaltender stopped all 37 shots sent his way, with some of his best stops coming with that left glove hand of his. In the second period, he shut down Connor Bedard on a clear breakaway, and from there, the game was history.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Nathan MacKinnon scored early to extend his home point streak to 30 games. That wasn’t where his evening stopped, though. The 28 year old finished the game with four points, moving him back into a tie with Nikita Kucherov for the league lead in scoring.

First Period

Colorado should take care of business at home against a bad team, and in the first period, they did their job.

It helps when your goaltender makes every save they should, and maybe a few they shouldn’t.

On an early powerplay for the Blackhawks, Annunen, making his second straight start against Chicago, made a fancy glove save on Connor Bedard. That wouldn’t be the last time in the period we’d see that glove do some work.

12:31 into the first, the Avalanche got on the board after an extended shift in the offensive zone. Nathan MacKinnon, who was the last guy to get on the ice, took a pass from Devon Toews and had plenty of room to walk in. That’s because Jason Dickinson tried to jump the pass. Not the type of mistake you can make against Colorado. MacKinnon walked in and beat Mrazek right below the blocker, making it 1-0.

A few minutes later, Annunen made easily his best stop of the period. Chicago won an offensive zone face-off, and Colin Blackwell somehow was allowed to walk right into the slot. His wrist shot was calmly gloved out of the air by the young goaltender, resulting in a TV timeout and a big cheer from the crowd.

With under three minutes remaining, the Avalanche extended their lead to two. A neutral zone turnover led to a two-on-one for Ross Colton and Jonathan Drouin. Colton immediately sent it to Drouin, who surveyed his options and sent a quick wrist shot over the blocker of Mrazek. The puck went in and out of the net so quickly that the refs assumed it hit the post, but it went under the bar, and Drouin knew it immediately. A much needed goal for Drouin, who had not scored since Jan. 13 in Toronto.

Second Period

The gap between these two teams was even more evident in a second period where the Blackhawks didn’t create a ton of scoring chances. Their best opportunity came early, when Bedard walked onto the ice on a line change, and found himself on as clean a breakaway as you’ll see. The young star tried to trick Annunen with some head fakes, but Annunen didn’t bite at all, sticking with him every step of the way. Bedard’s shot couldn’t beat Annunen’s glove, and the home crowd erupted at the sight of him stopping the “Next One.”

It was slump-busting night at Ball Arena, as Cale Makar put an end to his slump. MacKinnon hit Makar wide open at the right circle, and the porous Blackhawks defense let him walk right in, beating Mrazek on the blocker side for his first goal since Feb. 6. Makar looked to let out a “finally” as he turned around to celebrate with his teammates. For most defenseman, a month without a goal is pretty normal, but not him.

Exactly five minutes later, a Caleb Jones point shot bounced off Nick Foligno’s leg, then Zach Parise‘s skate and into the back of the net, making it 4-0. The route was on.

Third Period

If you’re Jared Bednar, you probably are just counting down the minutes for a third period like this to end so that your team doesn’t develop any bad habits. Colorado did give up 14 shots in the third period, but Annunen shut things down, despite one sneaking behind him for a second.

With under five minutes left, the Avalanche got a powerplay, and a MacKinnon pass bounced off the Blackhawks and into the net, making it 5-0. That point tied MacKinnon with Nikita Kucherov for the league lead in scoring.

The buzzer sounded with the Avalanche beating the Blackhawks by the exact same score they did four days ago. Colorado will stay at home for Wednesday night’s matchup with the Detroit Red Wings. That game starts at 7:30 PM MST.

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Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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