The beauty and curse of an 82-game schedule in the regular season is that there are probably 70 of them that, once they’re finished, you never think about again. Hell, that number might even be a little bit low once you get a few years down the road.

Tonight’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks, Game 77 of the season for the Avs, is certainly one that will be remembered by Avalanche fans for a long time.

Given the Avalanche clinched the postseason two nights ago against these same Sharks, an organization whose only desire for winning involves the upcoming draft lottery and not actual NHL games, it was an unexpected surprise that this ended up being a game for all of us to remember.

Nathan MacKinnon registered his 100th point against the Sharks two nights ago, a milestone everyone was excited to see him hit after years of close calls. That over, the focus turned to Mikko Rantanen and his chase for 50 goals, which had been stunted a bit coming into this game with just two goals in his last seven games.

When the Sharks jumped out to a 1-0 lead, all the talk of milestones fell by the wayside as the Avs needed to remember they had bigger fish to fry than worrying about personal milestones. Minnesota had lost earlier in the night and Dallas won, so the Avs needed a win to keep pace in the Central Division as they try to chase down a very unlikely division title.

That’s when the stars aligned and all the goals, literal and figurative, met at the perfect moment when Rantanen scored his 50th goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1. It came just 1:02 after the Sharks had taken the lead and put some life into a first period that had been severely lacking until that point.

Tied at intermission, the Avs came roaring out of the gates in the second period and before anyone knew it, Rantanen had goals 51 and 52, his Avalanche-record third hat trick of the season, and the Avs had a 4-1 lead with MacKinnon getting a goal in there, too. The whole thing took about eight minutes and was a reminder of how dominant this team can be when its best players get going.

Steven Lorentz potted a goal to make it 4-2 and bring everyone back to earth, but then the unlikeliest goal scorer on the Avalanche roster, Ben Meyers, made it 5-2 with his first goal since the first week of the season.

From there, the game shifted tone from the Avalanche trying to build the lead to protecting it and the Sharks were largely just meandering around the ice. The third period lacked both energy and drama, something I think both teams were extremely comfortable with.

Meyers scored his second of the night as the only action of the third period to bring the game to its final score of 6-2 in favor of the Avalanche.

It was an important two points for the Avalanche as they reach 100 points on the season, tie the Stars for the division lead, move two ahead of the Wild, and have one game in hand on both teams.


  • Rantanen is obviously the story here. He was fantastic in finishing and became the first player in Avalanche history to record three hat tricks in a single season. His hat trick tonight is actually the sixth of his career. He is the third Finnish-born player ever to score 50 goals in a single season, following Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne (both former Avs). He looked like a player who had the weight of the world lifted off his shoulders when he got his 50th, which he had spent weeks saying he wasn’t thinking about in lieu of team success, but the same way it was obvious MacKinnon cared about his milestone two nights ago, Rantanen clearly was relieved to have gotten to the mark. He now is two goals shy of Joe Sakic’s Avalanche record of 54 goals, which was set in that Cup-winning run in 2000-01.
  • Meyers getting two goals adds a wrinkle to the conversation as well. His production was literally the only part of his game really lacking. We’ve seen him come comically close so many times this year and his play found a great rhythm at one point, but in the NHL, you simply have to produce to stay in the lineup. When the Avs got healthy at forward, Meyers was the obvious odd-man-out because he couldn’t produce with just one goal in 34 games. With two goals, it gives Meyers a late runway to try to make a case for getting into the roster mix if Darren Helm continues to nurse injury. It’s too late to say he will have passed anyone, but this kind of performance inspires confidence he could be a valuable reserve if the Avs make another deep run.
  • I’ll get to it more in Studs and Duds, but Alexandar Georgiev wasn’t asked to do much in this game but still managed to make some meaningful saves along the way.

A.J. Haefele was born in Aurora, Colorado, raised in Katy, Texas and is the Colorado Avalanche beat reporter for DNVR. AJ helped launch the network back in 2015 and has filled roles as a team leader and Editor-In- Chief, along with co-hosting the DNVR draft podcasts along with his other duties. You can hear him every weekday on the DNVR Avalanche podcast. Follow AJ on Twitter - @returnofaj