The Avalanche home record improved to 25-9-2 after they took took care of business with a 5-1 win Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings.
Erik Johnson returned to action for the first time since his early exit from the game against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 18. He ended the game with 19:52 of ice time and ended with a plus-1 rating.
“I felt good,” Johnson said following the game. “I’ve been skating for three weeks, so conditioning was never lost; I just had to get the timing back.”
“You just want to keep it simple when you first get back from injury,” Johnson added. “I felt good and I’m sure after tonight I will keep getting better.”
There were still traces of the old rivalry in the energy of the sellout crowd Sunday afternoon at Pepsi Center.
“It’s still special to beat the Red Wings,” Johnson said. “It’s different for the players now. A lot of these guys don’t remember it — they are too young — but it’s big for the fans. You can tell the rivalry still lives and it’s fun for sure.”
Nathan MacKinnon added two goals and an assist to his point total for the season, giving him 38 goals and 51 assists.
“We need points, every game is so big for us,” MacKinnon said. “We felt like it was a big setback against Nashville on Friday night and the schedule is pretty busy now.”
The Avalanche outmatched the Red Wings in the first period, outshooting them 12-5 and the disparity between a playoff team and the fourth worst team in the league was on display right from the get-go.
Colorado scored early — just 3:58 into the game — when Nathan MacKinnon put the puck on net from the point and Gabe Landeskog tipped it in from in front of the net. The assist on Landeskog’s 24th goal of the season helped MacKinnon extend his point streak to eleven games.
Blake Comeau later tallied Colorado’s second goal of the game on a backdoor tap-in off a pass from Carl Soderberg and Colorado ended the period with a comfortable 2-0 lead.
The second period was much uglier from Colorado’s standpoint, as they were outshot 16-8, but still ended the period with a 3-1 lead.
Nathan MacKinnon added to the lead at 11:14 of the period on what was only the third shot of the period for Colorado. MacKinnon entered the zone after a lateral pass from just outside the zone from Gabe Landeskog. MacKinnon put the puck on his backhand and turned on the jets going right around Detroit’s Danny DeKeyser and finishing with a backhand top-shelf goal.
“It was a good breakout by Landy,” MacKinnon recalled. “I had a good isolation, one-on-one; I figured it hit a stick or something. I got lucky on both of my goals tonight, but I’ll take it.”
The Red Wings got a goal of their own 12:38 into the second when Martin Frk found Justin Abdelkader by himself in front of Semyon Varlamov. Abdelkader patiently waited for Varlamov to make a move and then put the puck over his blocker-side shoulder in the scramble.
The third period featured a strong push from Detroit, but Nathan MacKinnon’s second goal of the day put an end to any hope the Red Wings had of getting back in the game.
MacKinnon found himself on a breakaway but was caught by a Detroit backchecker as he was shooting, leading him to fan on the initial shot. MacKinnon regained control of the puck and attempted to wrap the puck around the net as Red Wings goalie Jared Coreau left the net open after sliding in an attempt to follow MacKinnon’s initial shot. MacKinnon’s shot came off of his stick incorrectly, but Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson accidentally tapped it into his own goal.
Tyson Barrie added a power-play goal late in the game on a five-on-three opportunity for his eleventh goal of the year and tenth consecutive game with a point — the longest streak by any Avalanche defenseman.
Gabe Landeskog ended with a three-point night contributing on both MacKinnon goals.
Now sitting with 86 points and a hold of the second wild-card spot, he Avalanche will head out on a quick one-game road trip to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. Game time will be at 6:30 p.m. MDT.