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Avs flout long odds behind white-hot Francouz for sixth straight victory

AJ Haefele Avatar
March 1, 2020

If there was ever a game to wave away a loss, this was it. This was tailor-made for the Avalanche’s five-game winning streak to come to a halt.

Let’s look at a list of things going against them coming into this one.

  • Played grueling game last night in Carolina
  • Nashville hung out at home last night and probably watched the Avs game
  • Pavel Francouz played last night and got the nod again tonight, a tough situation for any goalie
  • Andre Burakovsky’s injury flared up again and left him out of the lineup tonight
  • Instead of watching Vlad Kamenev stumble around through another poor outing, the coaching staff went with Mark Barberio…as the 12th forward, not on defense.
  • Nashville desperately needs any points they can get as they make a second-half run towards making the playoffs at all, a massive step back from a team that won the Central Division the last two years. They NEEDED this game.
  • Colorado’s best player, Nathan MacKinnon, is mired in a goal-scoring slump with just one goal in his last nine games.

Naturally, Colorado walked out of Nashville with the 3-2 victory, their franchise-record eighth consecutive road win and sixth straight win overall. This was a special win.

A first period that saw no goals gave way to another second period where Colorado did their thing as they scored two, courtesy of Gabe Landeskog and Martin Kaut.

The goals came just minutes apart and shifted what had been an increasingly tense tie game into a two-goal lead for the Avalanche.

Colorado had the same two-goal advantage last night in Carolina and blew that lead before ultimately stealing the victory with a late goal in regulation to make up for it.

It appeared the Avalanche were going to repeat the feat tonight as they gave up a goal to Viktor Arvidsson on a breakaway after Cale Makar had a failed almost-breakaway on the other end.

Nashville then scored again moments later on a Dante Fabbro shot from the point but not only was the goal immediately waved off, but the Predators were also penalized for goaltender interference.

The Avs failed to score on the ensuing power play, making them 0/4 on the night with the man advantage but it wasn’t without chances. Most of the time, Colorado’s power play fails because it struggles to generate scoring chances and shot attempts. The Avs did plenty of that tonight, they just couldn’t cash in.

They didn’t pay a price for it, though, as Erik Johnson got just his second goal of the season when he nailed a full-ice empty-net goal. Nashville added a goal with just over two seconds to help their goal differential in case of tiebreakers but otherwise, it was a meaningless goal in a loss that should sting for a while, especially if they miss the playoffs entirely.

The Avs move to 22-9-2 on the road, officially now the NHL’s best road team. Because St. Louis and Dallas can’t seem to finish any of their damn games in regulation, they naturally went to OT against each other tonight. The Blues won 4-3 in a shootout.

Colorado now sits four points ahead of Dallas with a game in hand and three points behind St. Louis with two games in hand.

The Avs are now 2-0 on this road trip with Monday’s game in Detroit the final stop before a brief return to Denver for another oddly-scheduled Wednesday night game.

GAME TAKEAWAYS

  • Let’s start at the top with Nathan MacKinnon. He finished February with 12 points in 14 games played and has tapered off hard as the injuries have mounted. That’s not what you expected but it’s how this has gone. Scoring goals has especially become a frustration for MacKinnon and there was no better example of where he’s at right now than on Colorado’s first PP opportunity of the third period when they moved the puck around and created enough chaos that MacKinnon had the puck on his stick and a wide-open net and…didn’t even come close to scoring. Colorado’s success despite all of this is as unexpected as it gets.
  • Martin Kaut…what more can I really say? I knew he’d be a good fit in the NHL because of how he plays the game but I wasn’t expecting him to look this good this quickly. Both of his goals have been point-blank wristers that just beat goaltenders and the goal today was so good. This was his sixth game, giving him three more until a decision has to get made on his contract. The numbers game simply doesn’t favor him with a fully healthy roster but his play has just been too good to ignore. Keeping Kaut likely means sitting a trusted veteran like Nieto so conventional wisdom is against the youngster but it’s a legitimate conversation all the same.
  • The slow rise of Gabe Landeskog this season continued as he played another strong game today. The goal he scored to get the scoring started was just the nastiest of nasty. A perfect shot from an insane angle. With MacKinnon struggling to drive the offensive production, Landeskog has actually stepped up in a big way there. He won’t get the love for it but it’s a thing that has absolutely happened. Very good stuff.
  • And then Pavel Francouz. Gives up a breakaway goal and then a meaningless goal with two seconds remaining. Cool. The man is a machine. Winning both games of a back to back is hard to do and Francouz doing it both drives home what kind of incredible stretch he’s on and adds more fuel to the fire that Philipp Grubauer’s latest injury might have cost him his starter job. It was a good defensive performance in front of him but he still had to make plenty of big saves. He did just that. Kudos to him.
  • He takes a lot of heat because of his contract but Erik Johnson had a strong game. I loved his game, especially offensively, and thought he was activating with a lot of confidence and making smart plays throughout. To see him get rewarded with the ENG was great for him. Just his second goal of the season as his role has continued to evolve into more of a defensive stopper and mentor for a young group. Two points tonight got him to 300 for his career. Good milestone for him.
  • Props to Mark Barberio for his work at forward. He continues to be a valuable glue guy who comes to the rink with a positive attitude and team-first mentality that is infectious. When you’re talking about chemistry and locker room camaraderie, you absolutely need a guy like Barberio around to help keep the group loose and remember playing hockey for a living is the dream. He’s an important presence in that locker room and his willingness to play up at forward in a pinch further exemplifies what makes him such an easy person to root for. A good hockey player but a special person.
  • The Kaut goal was assisted by Tyson Jost and Cale Makar. Just a fun line in the box score. All homegrown players taken in the first round. The legs of youth are starting to feed the growing beast that is the Avalanche.

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