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Colorado Avalanche staves off Senators with 5-4 win

Meghan Angley Avatar
March 17, 2023

In a familiar storyline, the Colorado Avalanche would play a team on the second leg of a back-to-back. Fortunately, the travel from Toronto to Ottawa would give them a bit of time to collect themselves. The team did not hold a morning skate to maximize their rest.

The impressive victory over Toronto in the shootout last night breathed new life into the Avs’ hope to capture eight points on this road trip.

First Period

Avs get the jump early. It wasn’t the first shot of the game, but it was the second. Mikko Rantanen dropped a pass to Cale Makar at the right circle and Makar wristed it in bar down.

Shortly after, Travis Hamonic was called for holding Andrew Cogliano and the Avs earned their first powerplay chance.

Colorado won the first faceoff and generated two shots on net.

At 5:44, Jack Johnson went to the box for holding. Colorado remained strong on the penalty kill and only allowed one shot on net – it was the first of the game. Ottawa won three faceoffs and missed four shots with plenty of touches.

Past the halfway point, Ridly Greig took issue with a huge hit by the boards and cross-checked Cale Makar in retaliation. Colorado had two shots on net and managed to bank it in on their third try.

Nathan MacKinnon and J.T. Compher worked together to collect Mikko Rantanen’s rebound and send it back to him. Rantanen passed to Makar at the left circle and he ripped a shot from in tight. Val Nichushkin was perfectly planted at the netfront to redirect the shot in with his stick blade.

Three minutes later, Nathan MacKinnon was called for holding and went off. The Avs endured another successful kill. Jonas Johansson made the initial saves, and Cale Makar was there to sweep away any rebounds. Ottawa had just a bit more get through this time with two shots on net, and Johansson made a big stop on Tim Stutzle’s wrist shot.

As the period winded down, Alex Newhook was called for interference. A little over halfway through the kill, Stutzle set Drake Batherson up at the left circle and Batherson sent a shot through traffic past Johansson.

Through three powerplay chances this period, Ottawa had three high-danger chances.

The period closed with shots 12-10 in favor of Ottawa, but at 5-on-5, Colorado had the edge in terms of possession. The merit of some of the penalty calls (particularly the Newhook call) was questionable, but the Avs would need to make a point of dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s to ensure that they stayed out of the box as much as possible.

Second Period

Colorado had another good start to the period. After the failed penalty kill to finish the first, they managed to reset in intermission and come out strong.

At 4:23, Nathan MacKinnon fired a shot from the point and Mikko Rantanen redirected it in. It was his 45th goal of the season and he’s now just five away from hitting the 50-goal milestone.

At 8:20, Avs couldn’t maintain the zone and the puck rimmed around the boards. Girard tried to hold the zone, but Derick Brassard and Erik Brannstrom worked it out. It led to an odd-man rush. Julien Gauthier drove up ice and passed to Shane Pinto inside the Avs’ end.

Alex Newhook and Bo Byram tried to get back, but Pinto fired off a shot before they could stop him.

Past the halfway point, Cale Makar knocked the puck away from an Ottawa skater and found its way to MacKinnon. In transition with speed, MacKinnon led the odd-man rush up ice. He passed to Rodrigues who wristed it in farside.

With a little under two minutes, Sam Girard sent the outlet pass up to a skating Logan O’Connor but the puck cleared the goal line. It looked like icing, but the refs waived it off. Mads Sogaard covered the puck and lifted his glove. The play was not whistled dead, and Lars Eller opportunistically batted it in. Jake Sanderson and O’Connor looked like they thought the play would be stopped, so they stood there motionless. Even Eller showed pause before batting it in as if to confirm that there was no whistle.

The play was reviewed for goaltender interference, but the challenge was unsuccessful and the goal stood.

This was Colorado’s strongest period even without the weird Eller goal.  Ottawa outchanced them in the first period, but the Avs flipped the script in the second.

Third Period

Early into the third period, at 2:52, Jonas Johansson made the initial stop on Stutzle’s shot, but it was loose in the crease and Travis Hamonic batted it in. It began with a broken play in the offensive zone, and Avs struggled to get back to prevent Ottawa from setting up in their end.

At 12:45, Mikko Rantanen was called for holding and Ottawa got to work on the powerplay.  Sanderson set up at the blueline, and Stutzle fired a shot from the top of the left circle for Brady Tkachuk to tip in. Cale Makar swooped in to try and engage Tkachuk, but he was too late.

It was now a 5-4 game.

Game management took a weirder turn.

Bo Byram was called for cross-checking Claude Giroux, but Giroux went to the box for embellishment. Logan O’Connor had a breakaway chance on the kill.

Logan O’Connor had another breakaway chance with 2:20 left.

With 1:24 remaining, after surviving 4-on-4 before, both teams were tasked with this again when Brady Tkachuk took a roughing call on Val Nichushkin. MacKinnon took issue with it and gave him some shoves from the bench, so he went to the box too.

But with 41 seconds on the clock, Devon Toews was called for tripping Tim Stutzle. It was a suspect call – Stutzle appeared to fall unrelated to Toews.

The Avs and Jonas Johansson had their hands full in the final seconds. If they wanted to finish this in regulation, they had to hold on.

J.T. Compher won the offensive zone faceoff. Jack Johnson tried for the empty net goal, but play was brought back to Colorado’s end. Alex DeBrincat, Drake Batherson, and Jakob Chychrun relentlessly poured on shots, but even with the allowed rebounds, Johansson made the final save.
Colorado scraped it out 5-4.

Observations

The Avs’ success in back-to-back’s continues. They’re now 7-2-1 on the second leg of a back-to-back.

Colorado’s powerplay, which has drawn concern at points recently, has converted a goal in six straight games. Even on a night where it goes one for three, it’s important to consider the strength of a sixth in the league penalty kill from Ottawa.

Colorado’s powerplay finished 24th in the league through the month of February. In March so far, it ranks third in the league with nine goals through 27 chances and has risen to sixth in the league overall.

Mikko Rantanen leads the team in powerplay points with ten goals and twenty assists. He picked up another in tonight’s contest on Nichushkin’s tip-in goal. Cale Makar also earned a powerplay point on the same goal with the shot that was sent on net. Makar is second behind Rantanen in powerplay points with five goals and 22 assists.

Makar, who’s been a pivotal piece of the success of the powerplay at QB1, also casually had a two-point night with a goal and an assist. This won’t show up on the scoresheet, but he played a key role in breaking up Ottawa’s play to give life to the Evan Rodrigues goal.

Like many games this season, he led the team in ice time with 27:03. Penalty kill, powerplay, and the first goal scorer: he really does it all.

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