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"Start to finish, that's probably one of our most complete games of the year." Val Nichushkin lifts Avs in shootout win over Bruins

Meghan Angley Avatar
January 9, 2024

Jared Bednar acknowledged tonight’s contest against the Boston Bruins as a measuring stick game.

The 24-8-7 Bruins built upon their historic season last year and the Avs had to match Boston’s intensity.

Colorado bested them in every category, but the Bruins hung around until the Avs took it 4-3 in the shootout thanks to Val Nichushkin.

“I wish we were going into it not banged up and with some guys sick,” said Bednar, “but every team goes through that. You have to grind.”

The Avs were without Miles Wood and Josh Manson. Sam Malinski was recalled by the Colorado Eagles and Jason Polin received the nod to make his NHL debut.

The officials managed the game early and called five penalties inside the first period.

Andrew Cogliano went off for tripping.

On the Bruins’ powerplay. Brad Marchand did a little turn and sent a wrister on net from the top of the left-circle.

It beat Alexandar Georgiev far-side. To Georgiev’s credit, on the earlier Avs powerplay, he made two huge stops on dangerous shorthanded chances from Boston.

Later, Colorado received another powerplay. Mikko Rantanen and Nichushkin tag-teamed the entry. Cale Makar moved the puck to Nathan MacKinnon at the left-circle, and MacKinnon found the seam between Brandon Carlo’s legs to Rantanen at the net-front. Rantanen’s stick blade angled the puck in perfectly.

With his point, MacKinnon extended his home point streak to 22 games – now one away from Joe Sakic’s record for the longest home point streak in franchise history regardless of start date.

Jack Johnson took a hooking penalty, but Cogliano helped to neutralize it and baited Boston into tripping on the kill.

It was satisfying after Cogliano’s earlier tripping call was a bit weak.

Early in the second period, Jonathan Drouin cleared the puck along the wall and Logan O’Connor chased it out of the zone. It ended up on Kevin Shattenkirk’s stick, but O’Connor stayed with it and stripped it away from both Shattenkirk and Pavel Zacha.

The sheer hard work to take the puck away was a thing of beauty, but then O’Connor escaped with it and wristed it past Jeremy Swayman’s glove to make for an incredible play. It was also his fourth point in four games.

Midway through the second, Carlo sent the puck behind the net from the blueline and Danton Heinen retrieved it. Heinen spun around and released the puck on net and John Beecher shoved the rebound over Georgiev’s pad.

Kurtis MacDermid came out of the box after both teams took a too many men penalty.

Unfortunately, Beecher torched MacDermid in his drive to the net on the goal.

Near the end of the period, Ryan Johansen won an offensive zone draw and got the puck back to Malinski at the blueline.

Malinski walked the blueline and shimmed before launching his shot through traffic and past Swayman. It was his second-ever NHL goal.

“He’s played really well when he’s been with us. Obviously we have a couple D out of the lineup now, so he’ll be here for a little bit,” Bednar said. “We’ll see what happens with those other guys. He’s certainly making a case for himself.“

“His puck moving was great tonight, and that’s not an easy team to play against either. Really good game and then to get rewarded for it, that’s nice to see.”

The Avs led the shots and possession battle through three periods and continued to create dangerous chances at a higher clip, but the game was tight.

Boston applied pressure in Colorado’s end early in the third period. The Avs struggled to clear and Marchand and Charlie Coyle cycled the puck in the corner.

Eventually Coyle spun to evade Makar and found a lane between MacKinnon and Toews to Marchand at the opposite post.

By the end of regulation, shots were 35-22 Avs.

“It was an awesome hockey game – hard fought, competitive,” said Bednar. “I really liked our game five-on-five. It was great and the penalty kill (was) outstanding. The powerplay generated some great chances. Their goalie made some big saves as did ours. I thought that game had a little bit of everything. Start to finish, that’s probably one of our most complete games of the year: the way we played, competed, (and) took care of the puck.”

In overtime, Marchand, Coyle, and Hampus Lindholm started for Boston and Makar, Devon Toews, and Nichushkin kicked it off for the Avs.

Overtime was thrilling. O’Connor took a holding penalty, and for the final minute and a half, the Avs had to kill a four-on-three penalty, but even before that it was close back and forth.

Georgiev made four huge stops and continued his excellence in the shootout. Makar made important defensive plays to run the clock too.

In the shootout, Val Nichushkin was the lone scorer and Georgiev denied Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak, and Coyle.

Georgiev made 23 saves on 26 shots and had 12 saves on high-danger opportunities.

He’s started 33 of 41 games and played the last 11 games, but he’s not worried about the workload and tough schedule ahead against Vegas and later in Toronto.

“You can always balance it out with maybe easier practices if you play a lot,” he explained. “I think that way you can manage that. I’m blessed to play. I love playing, so whenever the team needs me, I want to be sharp and 100%.”

“To be honest, I haven’t looked at the schedule too much. We have a road trip, but I’m really just looking a couple of days (ahead), not too far out.”

The combination of a good goaltending performance, depth scoring, and Malinski’s backend contributions made for a winning formula.

Hard work from the top in Makar, MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Nichushkin led the way again too.

“I felt like the whole night everybody was going, it wasn’t just individuals at certain times,” said Makar.

The job’s not finished. They conquered the beast from the East, but now they had a dragon to slay in the West against Vegas on Wednesday.

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