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Colorado earned their 15th comeback win of the season over the Ottawa Senators on the second leg of a back-to-back.
Now their comeback wins and third period comeback wins both pace the NHL.
The final score of 7-4 may seem like easy living, but it took a little magic to get there.
Miles Wood returned to the lineup after missing five games with the flu. Even though he’s not back to 100%, he was an instant relief to the forward group.
Justus Annunen earned his fifth-ever NHL start and Alexandar Georgiev got the night completely off. Ivan Prosvetov backed up Annunen in net.
Annunen missed five weeks with a lower-body injury earlier in the season and just returned to game action with the Colorado Eagles. He’s been a steady presence in net for them.
He was excellent. Annunen was peppered with 40 shots, 19 high-danger scoring chances from Ottawa, and three penalty kills including three shorthanded chances on net he had to be sharp for.
The first period could have ended worse. Ottawa outshot the Avs 15-11 and tested Annunen with dangerous chances early. Ross Colton took a high-sticking penalty after he nabbed Mads Sogaard. Matching roughing calls were assessed to Colton and Jake Sanderson on the play as well.
The Sens struck first. Logan O’Connor painfully blocked Drake Batherson’s shot, but Batherson pulled up and collected the loose puck off of him. Batherson reloaded and wristed the puck past Annunen’s glove.
Later in the period, Colorado neutralized things. Jonathan Drouin made the outlet pass to Mikko Rantanen at center ice and carried it in with Nathan MacKinnon on his flank. MacKinnon dropped the puck to Cale Makar at the half wall. Makar wristed the puck for Rantanen to angle in at the far-post.
MacKinnon has at least a point in each of his team’s eight games since the start of the new year. He continues to pace the NHL this season in assists and grabbed the league-lead for multi-point games this season.
Early in the second period, Brady Tkachuk juked MacKinnon along the boards and spun to escape him. Tkachuk skated to the point and slipped the puck on net. Claude Giroux helped guide it to the post and it bounced to the center for Ridly Greig.
A minute later, Sam Malinski made the stretch pass to Fredrik Oloffson at the offensive blueline and Olofsson immediately tagged up Jason Polin. Polin skated in and launched the puck to the back of the net from inside the right-circle.
It was Polin’s first-ever NHL goal in his fifth game.
Here’s where things get hairy, Ottawa responded with two goals.
Jake Sanderson sent a stretch pass to Tkachuk and Tkachuk fed Grieg across the slot. Grieg wristed the puck past Annunen down low.
After, Giroux dumped the puck to Sanderson and Sanderson went wide and snuck inside Drouin at the last minute to stuff the puck in the net.
Past the midway point, Malinski went end-to-end and sniped the puck past Sogaard from inside the slot, but the play was challenged and deemed offside.
It was tough to see that goal come back, but the Avs were motivated.
A minute later, Sam Girard sent the puck down ice to MacKinnon at the blueline. MacKinnon sent the puck to Rantanen inside the right-circle and Rantanen wristed it to the far-post past Sogaard.
Early in the third period, a broken play allowed Devon Toews to send the puck up ice to O’Connor in transition. O’Connor dropped the puck to Wood streaking in with speed and Wood crashed the net and backhanded the puck past Sogaard – and he got inside Vladmir Tarasenko to do it.
The Altitude broadcast said that Wood lost ten pounds during his recent bout with flu. Though that may have been hyperbole, it made the speed required on the play especially impressive.
Six minutes into the third, Makar baited Giroux into a powerplay and the Avs gained the man-advantage.
The powerplay was on its last legs and the second unit was on. Ryan Johansen passed to Girard behind the goal line and Girard slipped the puck low-to-high to Malinski at the top of the slot. Malinski snapped the puck through traffic and goal-justice was restored.
It was the first game-winning goal of Malinski’s career. With a three-point night from Girard, Colorado’s backend contributed eight points in tonight’s contest.
If fatigue was a factor for the Avs on the second leg of a back-to-back, and it showed at times, O’Connor certainly didn’t show it. He’s a work horse that never stops, and his hard work bought the Avs insurance and much needed goal support to Annunen.
Off the d-zone faceoff, Girard and O’Connor worked fast to regain possession. Girard launched the puck up ice for Wood to meet with speed. Wood held onto it under duress long enough to get the puck to O’Connor. O’Connor walked in and wristed it glove-side.
It was O’Connor’s eighth point in eight games and Wood’s second point in his return.
Ottawa made the gutsy decision to pull their goaltender for the extra skater with five minutes left.
Makar made the initial block on a Sens’ shot attempt and Toews collected the loose puck in the corner and sailed it into the empty net.
The Avs secured two important points. It was important not to let their loss to Montreal linger, and they needed to support Annunen.
Though they allowed more Grade A chances than they’d probably like, they came through with goal support and played better in front of Annunen as the night wore on.
Similarly, Annunen’s night in net earned a lot of trust. With uncertainty around Prosvetov’s capabilities as a backup, it was a matter of time before we saw what Annunen was made of.
After a terrific training camp, Annunen made a strong case for himself tonight. He handled the highs and lows of the game maturely and gave the Avs a chance to get back into the game.
Rantanen’s two goal night continued to lead the way for Colorado, but the addition of depth scoring was key too.
They’re nearly out of the storm. With Artturi Lehkonen set to return soon, they have one more big matchup against Boston to weather.