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The Avs kicked off their three game East coast road trip tonight in New York against the Islanders.
Colorado stayed hot with a 7-4 win to go 6-0-0. With their win, the Avs unlocked a new league record of 15 consecutive regular season road wins. They started their road-streak last March and remained perfect on the road through this point.
Alexandar Georgiev achieved a franchise record with his sixth-straight win to kick off the season. The Islanders are the first team Georgiev has captured ten or more wins against so far in his career.
There’s a lot of positive takeaways for the Avs to build upon before their next stop in Pittsburgh. In such a high-event game, there’s also a lot to unpack.
Jared Bednar rolled with a similar lineup after making in-game adjustments in the Carolina game. For the most part, Nathan MacKinnon played alongside Val Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen, and Ryan Johansen centered a line with Tomas Tatar and Mikko Rantanen.
At points tonight, those lines were subject to change too. MacKinnon played on a line with Johansen and Rantanen for a little bit after a slow start.
Colorado’s first period was strong, perhaps one of their best yet. A terrific performance from Ilya Sorokin kept the Islanders in it. Sorokin denied Ross Colton of a point-blank chance with an impressive kick-save.
The Avs first goal came on the powerplay. Cale Makar nudged the puck ahead for Rantanen to skate in with Johansen on his flank. Rantanen casually backhanded a pass under Ryan Puloch’s stick to Johansen, and Johansen batted it in.
The Islanders came within one off a Cal Clutterbuck tip-in. A failed clear along the boards allowed Noah Dobson to take the shot from inside the slot and Clutterbuck redirected it in.
Colorado provided some security with a beautiful deke from Makar. The Islanders thought the puck exited, but Makar carried it back in, cut down the middle around Puloch, and backhanded it in.
In the second period, the Islanders took a brief lead. The Avs gave one away on the penalty kill: Kyle Palmieri scored to tie it.
Shortly after, a failed board battle led to extended possession. Simon Holmstrom’s shot from inside the right circle beat Georgiev to make it 2-3.
It was an issue of details.
Clutterbuck’s tip-in was a tough change of direction, but generally the Avs needed to be stronger and cleaner in their own end. Now a failed clear and board battle allowed the Islanders to gain the edge they needed despite the Avs’ control in the possession and shots battle.
They grew a bit too comfortable after their strong performance in the first period.
Colorado needed to return to form and button up the details. To their credit, they were dealing with tired legs at the end of extended shifts and the long change inside the second period.
Bednar tinkered with the lines a bit: Rantanen and MacKinnon were united. MacKinnon in particular struggled early into tonight. He didn’t look quite like himself: dropping passes he’d otherwise receive and being worked off the puck.
Rantanen on the other hand played very well and his return to the top-line was likely to help jump-start MacKinnon.
The Avs tried to climb back in on the powerplay. Rantanen had some good looks, but they couldn’t convert.
To add insult to injury, Nichushkin took an offensive-zone penalty following its conclusion and the Avs went back on the kill. It was a 50/50 call and Colorado rallied to kill it on Nichushkin’s behalf.
It was a great kill and the momentum injected life back into the group when they needed it most.
Almost poetically, two players who needed to remember who they were snapped back to reality.
Nichushkin fed Byram the puck up high. He deferred earlier in the night and appeared to lack confidence. But this time, Byram took the shot and beat Sorokin.
Eleven seconds later, MacKinnon answered with a tally of his own to flip the game on its head in a critical way. Nichushkin made a slick, no-look pass behind him to MacKinnon in the slot.
The Islanders had closed in on Colorado and the Avs needed to regain control. Impressively, their efforts in the final minute of the second period allowed them to enter the third period with a one goal lead.
In the opening five minutes of the period, a turnover in the defensive zone gave the puck to Anders Lee who turnstiled the puck past Georgiev in space.
A few minutes later, Tatar won a battle along the boards and sent a terrific pass to Rantanen. Rantanen wristed the puck five-hole to get the Avs lead back.
Colorado just needed to hold on tight. With a minute remaining, Johansen notched the empty-net goal to make it 6-4.
The Islanders pulled the goaltender again and Brock Nelson ushered the puck to his own net mistakenly. Colton got the last touch for another empty-net goal to seal this one at 7-4. It was Colton’s first goal in an Avs uniform.
The Avs could have let a tough frame inside the second period cave them in. Instead, they took back the reins using a solid penalty kill as a springboard.
After seven minor penalties in five games, Byram was in need of some soul searching. In the first period, he still looked a little unsure of himself sending the puck behind the goal line instead of taking the shot.
When the team needed to shift momentum, Byram believed in himself and took the shot. It couldn’t come at a better time.
A strong performance from Rantanen carried the Avs through the challenging period within the second period. He earned three primary assists alongside his goal tonight. It was a terrific display of leadership. Plus, he earned his 300th career assist in the process.
Johansen continued to lift Colorado’s powerplay to success with his third consecutive powerplay goal.
Those inside the Central know it all too well, so Makar delivered a friendly reminder to our friends out East that he’s among the best. Makar’s backhand maneuver was impressive by itself, but his strong puck handling in his own end (outside of a failed clear in the first) stopped the Islanders from getting more dangerous. He made it look effortless.
One player that deserved a better fate is Ross Colton. He was on the doorstep of several great chances that didn’t convert. He got his first in an Avalanche uniform tonight, but you know he wants more than an empty-net goal. He had five shot attempts on net – two of which were high-danger chances – and two additional missed shots.
Colton’s production feels like a dam waiting to burst.
Colorado looks dangerously versatile in the top-six right now. Bednar has diagnosed a line’s needs in-game and made adjustments accordingly.
For that third line, Jonathan Drouin is a newer addition to Colton and Miles Wood. Consistency should help them to gel even more moving forward. Wood’s flashes of speed and Drouin’s skilled playmaking have shown promise. It’s just a matter of time before they really get going together.
The Avs head to Pittsburgh to play the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena at 5 PM MST on Thursday. They’ll look to keep their winning streak alive as long as they can.