Morning skate yielded a couple of updates that would influence tonight’s lineup: Kurtis MacDermid would play, Val Nichushkin – though absent – would also play, Jacob MacDonald skated as a forward, and Martin Kaut was recalled by the Colorado Avalanche. As a result, you knew a classic blended Jared Bednar game was on tap.
Additionally, a piece of Colorado’s depth was shipped out in a trade: Dryden Hunt to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Denis Malgin. Malgin, a Swiss-born player who has 215 NHL games under his belt, is sorting out work visa issues and did not play tonight.
Denis Malgin, traded to COL, is a depth utility player who struggles to finish his chances. #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/qeScjPyCMc— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) December 19, 2022
As a result, the projected lines revealed an interesting bottom six. Martin Kaut, the 23-year-old winger hungry to stick as an NHL regular, would be kept on a short leash on the fourth line unless he can show otherwise.
Game #️⃣3️⃣1️⃣#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/bXjLESWOBh— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 20, 2022
Still, this iteration of the Avs looks more promising than the state of things two weeks ago. Artturi Lehkonen will play in his fifth game since returning, Val Nichushkin in his sixth , and Evan Rodrigues in his third – with every passing game, key players rattle off more rust and inch closer to their true form.
Late in the period, Kurtis MacDermid delivered a check a bit late on Mat Barzal and Colorado went on the kill. The penalty kill has been a welcome strength of a hampered Avs team and continued to impress.
With under a minute remaining in the period, Cale Makar waived off a minor penalty the officials believed was a trip. Makar and Barzal were winding around the back of the net, and even though it looked like Barzal might have hooked his stick up around Makar’s shoulder, you can see that Makar more simply clashed his own skates together and lost an edge. The ref raised his hand and blew the whistle, but Makar was quick to waive it off.
The official made the updated announcement that there was no penalty.
“Saved the ref from some media attention tonight, that’s for sure”— Jesse Montano (@jessemontano_) December 20, 2022
– Cale Makar on “declining” a penalty in the first period. Said he felt it was the right thing to do in the moment, said he thought it was a pretty easy non-call. #Avs pic.twitter.com/Gjf9Y0JUBB
The first period was imperfect. The Avs allowed the most dangerous attempts in this frame, but they still generated more of their own chances to counter this. A couple of lucky bounces went their way, but it was not for a lack of effort and even with a penalty to kill, they sustained more zone pressure than the Islanders.
Early into the period, Colorado earned their first real powerplay opportunity of the game. A Brock Nelson crosscheck on Artturi Lehkonen gave the Avs the man-advantage. They were unable to capitalize on the chance, and would get one more attempt at 8:31 when Mikko Rantanen drew a tripping call.
Just two powerplay chances in the game and the Avs couldn’t convert, but it was solid process wise. They controlled possession, their passes were connecting, but it all came down to finish. Through both their xGF was 1.67 and Ilya Sorokin was forced to make five high-danger saves.
The rest of the period built upon the positives of the first period. The Avs held the Islanders to just 7 shots and generated 15 of their own on net.
Colorado ramped up the intensity from the second period even more. They began to cease control of possession in a dominating way.
With about six minutes left, Andrew Cogliano’s skates collided with Zach Parise and he went hard into the boards. He labored to the bench and went down the tunnel. He understandably did not return and Jared Bednar did not have an update in the postgame on his status. He would require more evaluation tomorrow.
Alexandar Georgiev had to make just eight saves in this period (Sorokin comparatively had to make 19), but the combined effort from the goaltender and the team was enough to force overtime.
It’s an overtime period we’ve come to recognize. Cautious. Though lacking the finesse of exits, resets, and reentries driven by Nathan MacKinnon, the personnel on deck for 3-on-3 hockey locked it down.
Theirs legs looked a bit tired at points, with defensemen like Toews or Girard getting deep in their end to allow for fresh bodies to take to the ice in search of the perfect play.
Cale Makar set J.T. Compher up with a beautiful cross crease pass, but Compher sent it too high.
Mikko Rantanen crashed the zone, waited, and found Makar at the netfront. Sorokin made the save that would require a shootout.
Georgiev denied Simon Holmstrom with a kick save.
Evan Rodrigues was the first skater out and used the same forehand deke from the New York Rangers game that beat Igor Shesterkin. He was successful yet again.
Mat Barzal was a little too cute with it and Georgiev made the right pad save. Mikko Rantanen was out next and attempted another simple flick of the wrists, but it came up short (and right into Sorokin’s shoulder.)
Last out for the Islanders was Anthony Beauvillier and Georgiev poked the puck away from him before he could shoot. Colorado won in a unique fashion with just one goal from Evan Rodrigues in the shootout and a perfect performance from Georgiev.
Excellent goaltending – Hats off to both Georgiev and Sorokin. Twenty of Sorokin’s 46 saves came about on high-to-medium danger chances created by the Avs in close. Any goaltender who only lets in one goal during the shootout in a 46 save game deserves tremendous credit. Not without credit is the solid performance of Alexandar Georgiev as well. He was perfect in stopping 26 shots, twelve of which were high-to-medium danger.
The process – The Avs started to look like themselves again. They were attempting chip plays along the boards to create transitions up ice, strong on the forecheck to make for a more punishing game in the offensive zone, and despite a lack of finish, hungry in their relentless pursuit of opportunity. Everybody eats. Just one player didn’t have a shot attempt (on net, blocked, or missed) and it was Jacob MacDonald who played under two minutes and took just two shifts. Just three players other than MacDonald did not crack the ten minute time on ice mark: Brad Hunt, Martin Kaut, and Kurtis MacDermid. Even MacDermid took a defensive zone faceoff during the second period of a 0-0 game.
Overall, the strong performance of Georgiev coupled with the revved-up intensity of the Avs’ process made for a satisfying win. It’s two important points that they can deposit into the bank for later in the season.