Life without All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon is off to a good start for the Avalanche.
Colorado (42-20-8) scored twice on the power play before an overtime game-winner from MacKinnon’s top-line replacement, J.T. Compher at 2:50 of the overtime period, sent the Avs to a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday. Goaltender Pavel Francouz, making his fifth consecutive start, made 30 saves for his 21st victory of the season.
Avs coach Jared Bednar, despite the victory, made it clear that he was unhappy with his team’s performance overall. The Avalanche led 2-1 late in the third but surrendered the game-tying goal with 13 seconds remaining in regulation.
“I thought we were not good 5-on-5. Which usually is the strength of our game,” Bednar said. “The power play got two, penalty kill was excellent. I thought we had some guys that played real hard and logged a lot of minutes—way more than they usually do. But on the defensive side, we were terrible. Pav was awesome and we got the win. We’ll take it.”
Avs rookie defenseman Cale Makar had three assists. The latter on the game-winning goal when took a feed from Compher and slowly entered the zone, eventually firing the puck on goal for Compher to redirect past the netminder. Makar returned after missing five games.
“Their guy screened their goalie,” Makar said, describing the game-winner that kept the Avs within two points of St. Louis for the top spot in the Western Conference. “Comph got a great stick on it and put it over (the goalies) shoulder. It was a great tip by him.”
Compher logged a career-high 25:38 in his new role alongside wingers Gabriel Landeskog and Vladislav Namestnikov. The trio combined for four points with the latter two continuing the strong offensive output they had playing with MacKinnon.
“We know how big a part Nate is of this team,” Landeskog said. “He’s been my linemate for as long as I can remember. You get used to playing with somebody, especially a guy that’s so high-caliber and in my opinion one of the top two centers in the league. It’s a big piece but it fueled us. We wanted to come out and prove that we’re a heck of a team without him as well.”
MacKinnon will be out for 1-2 weeks, Bednar said.
Colorado’s power play gave the Avalanche life after surrendering a goal to the hottest hand in the league in the first period. Mika Zibanejad, who recently reached the 40-goal mark in just 56 games, fired a shot past Francouz to make it 1-0.
Namestnikov and Tyson Jost scored the next two goals to put the Avalanche ahead. Namestnikov and Jost, along with Compher, Landeskog, and Makar, made up Colorado’s new-look top power-play unit.
What sparked that power play success?
“Cale was back,” Landeskog said.
Makar added: “Things were clicking. We just wanted to go out there and try to put pucks on the net.”
The Avalanche are scheduled to continue their homestand on Friday, but the NHL is expected to update teams on any potential postponements on Thursday. The NBA announced on Wednesday that all games will be postponed until further notice, effective immediately. There is a strong possibility the NHL will follow suit. … Makar reached 50 points on Wednesday, joining Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes as the second rookie defenseman to accomplish the feat this season. … Martin Kaut, who was called up to play in his ninth regular-season game, will return to the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League. Bednar confirmed postgame that the plan remains to preserve the first year of Kaut’s entry-level contract. A 10th appearance this season would burn a year off his deal.
- J.T. Compher: Career-high ice-time and the game-winner in overtime.
- Cale Makar: Three assists in his first game back from a five-game absence.
- Pavel Francouz: The goalie had 30 saves, including multiple breakaways in the second and third periods.