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Boy this was a topsy-turvy affair. The Avalanche rolled into this one fresh off hanging on to beat their demons and the Nashville Predators last night on the road. You’d never know they played last night, however, from how they started the game.
They came out with the jump and made the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins look like the club team up at CU. Some first line brilliance led to the game’s first goal from Sam Girard. An Erik Johnson goal and a Colin Wilson banger put the Avs up 3-0 in the second period and they were straight cruising to their sixth consecutive win until all hell break loose.
The final minute of the second period saw Sidney Crosby score two goals, the first on a breakaway caused by Nikita Zadorov’s stick breaking, and then he nabbed the hat trick early in the third to tie the game and give the pissed off leftover Steelers fans something to be excited about for a few minutes.
The Avalanche took that fun away when the top line got back to work, scoring at 10:05 of the third period and survived a 90’s-style clutch-and-grab defensive tactic that somehow escaped the eye of the officials along the way. They nabbed an empty-net goal and then seconds later Carl Soderberg scored against a goaltender for funsies and just like that the Avalanche won 6-3. They are currently on a six-game winning streak and 8-0-1 in their last nine games.
Not a bad response to a five-game losing streak, eh?
More takeaways from the game:
- The combination of plays from Sam Girard and Mikko Rantanen to set up Colorado’s first goal was incredible. The spin move and stretch pass from Girard were perfect and then Rantanen doing his thing in the offensive zone and ultimately finding Girard, who was jumping into the ocean of open space Pittsburgh’s defense left. The shot was nice, too, but that was all about creating great offense by combining high-skill plays.
- The recent play of Matt Nieto has been nothing short of very good. His defensive work and speed created a great scoring chance for his line in the first period. They didn’t finish, naturally, but anytime that line finishes a shift in the offensive zone, it’s a win.
- I don’t know what kind of voodoo Colorado’s new skills coach practices but its clearly had a profound impact on Tyson Jost. Since returning from injury, he’s been a man possessed and his play on Colorado’s third goal was nothing short of immaculate. He’s been tearing it up and just like that he has 10 points on the year. Remember, he scored 22 last year in his rookie season.
- I’m really not sure what all there is to say about Colorado’s top line that hasn’t been said by us or anyone else. There’s no unique insight on their dominance, just appreciation. Nathan MacKinnon led the Avs last night against Nashville and then picked right back up where he left off tonight. His patience with the puck can be maddening but when you see him set up Colin Wilson for an easy tap-in of a goal, you understand why he’s so patient.
- Philipp Grubauer was having a very strong game until the very end of the second period. Nobody is going to be overly upset with giving up a breakaway goal to Sidney Crosby but that second goal is the exact kind of goal that crushes a team’s momentum. It provided Pittsburgh with all the momentum heading into the third period in a game they looked down and out of.
- The penalty Patrik Nemeth took right before the Pens’ second goal was totally unnecessary and makes you wonder what he’s thinking out there. He straight up tackled a guy who wasn’t in a dangerous scoring position on a play where it wouldn’t have been a big deal had his guy gotten around him. That he chose to wrap him up like a linebacker for the Broncos was incredibly confusing. The Broncos HAVE had some trouble at the LB position for a few years, though, so maybe John Elway should give Nemeth a buzz because it was pretty good form on the wrap-up.
- It’s going to be remembered that Sidney Crosby scored three straight goals for Pittsburgh to bring them back into the game and give the Avalanche quite a scare but he was also on the wrong end of the scoring highlights on two of Colorado’s first three goals. He also got away with a nice hook on MacKinnon before MacKinnon nabbed the empty-net goal to seal the deal for Colorado.
- MacKinnon’s four-point night overshadowed Crosby’s hat trick as he continues to put the NHL on notice that he is a superstar that is looking to do some damage.
- Grubauer’s strong finish to the game was an encouraging response after giving up an inexcusable second goal. Still, his overall performance still isn’t enough to unseat Semyon Varlamov and start really taking starts from him. It’s fair to say his adjustment to Colorado has taken longer than was hoped when he was acquired but his goal support means he just keeps finding himself on the winning side of games.