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Dominant Top Line Leads Avalanche To Decisive Win Over Flames



Avalanche MackInnon

I don’t know if anyone really doubts the impact Valeri Nichushkin has on the Colorado Avalanche, but it was front and center on Tuesday night.

Nichushkin picked up three points back on the top line, and the rest of his line isn’t too shabby, either. Mikko Rantanen added four points of his own, and Nathan MacKinnon added a goal and an assist, setting a career high in points with 113. The Flames had no answer to Colorado’s big guns, as the Avalanche stomped them on their way to a 6-2 win. Casey Mittelstadt and Josh Manson added the other goals for Colorado.

Justus Annunen had a rough start, but settled down after giving up the second goal of the game. He finished with 25 stops on 27 shots.

First Period

Dan Vladar looked like superman in period one.

Even though the Avalanche peppered him with 20 shots, they somehow found themselves trailing after 20 minutes, and the only real reason was Vladar, who made dynamite saves on Nathan MacKinnon, Casey Mittelstadt, and Valeri Nichushkin to hold the road team off as much he could.

Colorado did get the opening goal very quickly, as the Flames found themselves in the box just 1:13 in. Nichushkin, back on the top powerplay unit with Artturi Lehkonen missing the game due to illness, made an immediate impact, and I don’t think he’ll be going anywhere. MacKinnon’s initial wrist shot was stopped, but Nichushkin sent a nice pass to Mikko Rantanen on the backdoor for an easy tap-in, making it 1-0.

The Flames got the next two, with the first one coming in flukey fashion. Miramonov’s point shot hit Andrew Cogliano and deflected over Justus Annunen’s shoulder, tying the game up. A few minutes later, Duehr backhanded a shot past a screened Annunen, making it 2-1. The young goalie had given up two goals on the first three shots, but really settled down after that.

The rest of the period (and game) belonged to the Avalanche, but it wasn’t until period two where they really took over.

Second Period

Whatever juju Vladar had going in the first period quickly evaporated once the second period started. The poor guy still wasn’t getting any help from his team, and he couldn’t hold the Avalanche off any longer.

Five straight unanswered goals from Colorado more or less put an end to the game. It started about five minutes into the game, as Sean Walker, who was all over the ice on Tuesday, fed Josh Manson at the right point. Manson’s point shot hit a Flames stick and trickled past Vladar, tying the game up.

Just 58 seconds later, Nathan MacKinnon took a great pass from Nichushkin and wired a ridiculous shot over Vladar’s glove, giving the Avalanche the lead. The top line wasn’t done, as just a few minutes later, Mikko Rantanen hit Nichushkin in the slot on a rush, and the big Russian went post-and-in for his second of the night.

At the 14:10 mark of the second, the Avalanche executed a picture-perfect breakout play, springing Mittelstadt for a breakaway. The 25 year old was super patient picking his spot, and beat Vladar on the blocker side for his first in the burgundy and blue.

With under a minute left in the period, the top line got in on the action again. Cale Makar’s initial shot ripped off the far post, and bounced back across the ice to Rantanen. With seemingly no angle, the Finn ripped it top shelf for his second of the game, and the route was on.

Third Period

The third period was just about getting out of the game. Colorado took a few penalties, but were able to kill them off without things getting too crazy. With the big lead, they were able to roll four lines to prepare for their matchup with the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night. That game starts at 8:30 PM MST.

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