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Avalanche Rally With Five Unanswered Goals, Beat Predators 7-4; Clinch Playoff Spot




Sure, it was a formality at this point, but we can now officially say it – the Colorado Avalanche are headed to the playoffs. Again.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – the Avalanche came from behind for another victory at home. After going down 4-2 early in the second period, Jared Bednar pulled Alexandar Georgiev and replaced him with Justus Annunen. That, along with a five minute powerplay soon after, turned the tide of the game, and Colorado scored five unanswered goals to walk away with a 7-4 win over the Predators.

Nathan MacKinnon started a new streak at home, picking up four points and re-taking the scoring lead in the NHL. Mikko Rantanen added three assists, giving him 100 points for the second straight season. Annunen stopped all 22 shots he faced over the final 39 minutes to come away with the win.

First Period

10 seconds into the game, Yakov Trenin nearly scored against his former team. That would be a good indicator of what we were in for the rest of the period.

Colorado got a real scare early in the first. Not just on the scoreboard, but on the ice. Cale Makar blocked a Filip Forsberg shot, and hobbled around the rest of his shift. Ultimately, the Avalanche left Cole Smith all alone in front of the net, and he beat Georgiev up high for the first goal of the game, but the concern was around Makar, who left the game for about eight minutes.

The Avalanche answered back quickly, as Jonathan Drouin deflected home a Nathan MacKinnon pass 1:45 later, tying the game up. A new streak begins for MacKinnon, I guess.

After that, the period got a little chaotic, and the refs lost control a little bit. The Predators were given a 5-on-3 after two questionable calls against Colorado, but an O’Reilly penalty cancelled things out just a little bit. The physicality really ramped up the second half of the period as well.

Nashville got the next two goals, capitalizing first on a turnover along the boards from Zach Parise. A nice bounce off an attempted pass went back to Jankowski, who made it 2-1. 41 seconds later, Fabbro was allowed to walk in all alone from the point to make it 3-1.

A Sherwood slashing penalty gave the Avalanche another powerplay towards the end of the period, and they took advantage, with some help by the Predators. Scissons cross-checked Rantanen into his own goaltender, knocking him out of the play. Casey Mittelstadt found a loose puck and pushed it over the goal line in what looked like a clear goal, but there was no real call on the ice. The refs quickly reviewed it and determined it was a good goal, allowing the Avalanche to cut the lead to one before the intermission.

Second Period

Things didn’t calm down at all in period two.

Just 57 seconds in, the Predators got a clear two-on-one, and Gustav Nyquist beat Georgiev on the blocker side, making it 4-2. All four goals against Georgiev beat him on that side, so maybe Nashville saw something in their pre-scouting meetings. An angry Georgiev apparently shot the puck over the boards, and was given an unsportsmanlike penalty. After that, Jared Bednar pulled him, putting in Justus Annunen.

The turning point of the period came 3:11 in. After Ross Colton, who was serving Georgiev’s penalty, had exited the box, he took a high hit from Ryan McDonagh. The refs gave McDonagh five and a game, giving Colorado an extended powerplay and taking one of Nashville’s best defensemen out of the game.

Most of that powerplay wasn’t very pretty, but the Avalanche did manage to get one, which they absolutely needed to do. Artturi Lehkonen didn’t appear to get everything on a one-timer, but he got just enough to have roll past Lankinen, making it 4-3.

Colorado, who struggled defensively most of the first 30 minutes, settled down a bit, making Annunen’s life a little easier than Georgiev’s was. They killed off a Miles Wood penalty, and were given a powerplay of their own with four minutes remaining in the period.

During that powerplay, Cale Makar was tripped to the ice and punched in the face, drawing a penalty on neither of those plays. He seemed to take that personally. At 18:25 of the period, he gathered the puck, created a lane, and beat Lankinen on the glove side, tying the game up. It looked like that goal meant a lot to him after what he dealt with earlier in his shift.

Speaking of goals that mean a lot, Yakov Trenin, playing against his former team, gave the Avalanche a lead with just 28 seconds left. Andrew Cogliano did a lot of the work on the forecheck, forcing a turnover by Forsberg, and Trenin beat Lankinen with a quick shot up high. After scoring, Trenin skated directly to the boards and jumped into the glass, something Colorado fans saw a few times in the playoffs in 2022.

Third Period

The only bad news in the third period for the Avalanche was an injury to Sean Walker, who didn’t return due to an upper-body issue. There was no update on him after the game.

Nathan MacKinnon scored into an empty net early in the third period, and that more or less sealed the deal for Colorado. The entire goal was created by Jonathan Drouin, who did a fantastic job entering the zone with possession. MacKinnon added an empty net goal to truly seal it, giving him 127 points on the season. Justus Annunen wasn’t tested a ton, but made two really strong saves late in the period to maintain Colorado’s lead.

With the 7-4 win, the Avalanche clinched a playoff spot for the seventh consecutive season. Now the goal is to chase down Dallas for the division lead.

Colorado will now head out onto the road for the last real road trip of the season. On Saturday, they’ll take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. That game starts at 5 PM MST.

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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