Colorado kicked off game day with an optional skate at Ball Arena. Notably in attendance was the newest addition to the Avs’ forward group, Denis Malgin. The forward acquired in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs sorted out his visa issues lightning fast and would make his Avalanche debut in tonight’s contest against the Montreal Canadiens.
Andrew Cogliano was expectedly out pending further evaluation after the holiday break, but was seen around the arena at morning skate looking no worse for wear.
The Montreal Canadiens entered tonight 4-5-1 in their last 10 with quiet 32 points in the standings. After a 3-2 OT win over Arizona on Monday, the Habs took an optional skate this morning. In net, 32-year-old Jake Allen would start. He had a 0.897 save percentage ahead of tonight.
A 1:48 into the first period, Habs centerman Anthony Richard scored his first ever NHL goal. The breakdown came about in the offensive zone. Ben Meyers took a shot and went to collect the puck in the corner.
Both Meyers and Logan O’Connor were going to the puck and Meyers appeared to hesitate and chip the puck ahead in an attempt to make the play to O’Connor. It created a turnover which led to a breakaway chance.
Richard beat Sam Girard and Erik Johnson in the neutral zone and bested Alexandar Georgiev in all alone. Despite this hiccup, Colorado locked down possession in Montreal’s end and generated chances. It was close, however. Colorado allowed four high danger chances to the Canadiens’ three which pointed to a need for the Avs to close guys out more quickly and protect home plate.
The early goal presented a bit of a hurdle. Colorado would need at least two and considering their low-event hockey as of late, the Avs must finish some chances
Some of the only action this period came with under two minutes remaining in the period. Arber Xhekaj tripped Evan Rodrigues and Colorado went on the first powerplay of the game.
On the whole, the Avs started to climb back in this one, but if you guessed that finishing would be a problem – it was.
The Avs outshot the Canadiens 15-4 in this frame and generated five dangerous chances to their two. Combined with controlling possession, it was a great period to build off of. The Avs were cycling the puck well, but Montreal was getting sticks in lanes and breaking up chances.
There was some time left over on the powerplay that carried over into the third.
The carry-over powerplay expired, and the Avs were unable to convert. Two minutes into the third, Logan O’Connor drew a hooking call on Anthony Richard and Colorado was back on the powerplay.
J.T. Compher won the faceoff and Makar worked the puck up high. He sent it to Mikko Rantanen at the right circle whose quick release found Artturi Lehkonen in the slot. Lehkonen fired a beautiful snap shot in tied the game 1-1.
After the goal, you could see a shift in the team. High energy and hungry.
A weird sequence at 9:55 resulted in Denis Malgin to the box for slashing. Thankfully, the Avs successfully killed the penalty and kept things tied. The clock expired and this one was headed to overtime yet again.
Out first for Colorado was J.T. Compher, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar. Less than two minutes in, Montreal started on their rush attempt. Jonathan Drouin challenged Rantanen on the backcheck, got around him, and nailed a shot on Georgiev. Georgiev made the save, but the puck sat idly in the crease.
Rantanen was able to collect it and carry it up ice in a two-on-one with Devon Toews. Toews carried it into the zone and passed it back to Rantanen. Rantanen beat Allen five-hole and won it in overtime.
Ben Meyers – Another solid night from Meyers. He ended the evening with 14:00 TOI, two shots on net (one additional missed attempt), one blocked shot, and went an impressive 70% in the faceoff circle. In a lot of the puck moving sequences, Meyers was right there moving the puck on the cycle. In a continuation of strong play from the Islanders game, Meyers’ looks more comfortable and confident than ever.
Denis Malgin – Building off of the positives of Meyers above, Malgin’s immediate fit in within the Avs system was a welcome sight. The line combination of Meyers, Malgin, and Logan O’Connor gelled well all things considered. Malgin’s speed and willingness to step up into play made him visible shift by shift. This line controlled play and fed one another well – the possession metrics of this line supported this.
“I liked the way he skated and moved the puck,” said Jared Bednar. “He looked like a confident player with the puck, he was making plays, pretty sure hands, and responsible on the defensive side of it. I thought he got better as the game went on.”
A lack of finish – You hope a breakthrough is coming. It’s not for a lack of trying. The Avs generated 36 shots on net, (10 high danger, 23 additional attempts were blocked, and 15 additional were missed). You look at the range of goaltenders that the Avs have faced recently and it doesn’t appear to be an issue of getting out-goalied every night. They’re incorporating drills in practice to practice getting shots through, and you can see that the effort is there. Mikko Rantanen, the overtime winner, led the team in shots. Newly-returned Evan Rodrigues hasn’t missed a step and was right there behind him with seven shots.
“I think you try to simplify a little bit when you’re going through a rough offensive time,” Rantanen said. “When you don’t score as much, you try to shoot more and I think that’s what we’re doing. (When) scoring goals, you got to relax a little bit. Feels like if we’re a little bit trying try too hard, it’s probably not gonna go in there either. It’s gonna come, we have a lot of skilled guys.”