They say the best way to break out of a slump is to score nine goals, six in the second period, and top it off with a first career hat-trick from a veteran forward. At least that was the recipe for the Avalanche tonight, as they exploded in the second period on their way to a 9-4 route of the Nashville Predators.
Colorado (9-5-2) scored six goals in 8:00, one less than the seven scored throughout its five-game losing streak.
“We just kept coming,” Avs coach Bednar said. “Big response after they scored their second (in a row), to go back-to-back to score a few.”
The Avalanche’s response was the turning point of the game. Despite dominating the first period, outshooting the Predators 18-6 and leading 2-1, the Avs came out flat in the second period. Nashville killed a penalty and then followed it up with a goal from Filip Forsberg, who beat Avs goalie Pavel Francouz five-hole to tie the game. Nearly four minutes later, while on the power play, the Predators took the lead, as former Avalanche forward Matt Duchene put them ahead.
But then the route began.
It took just 31 seconds for Colorado to respond. Joonas Donskoi scored his first of three before defenseman Ryan Graves added another 20 seconds later. The offense continued its dominance with goals from Andre Burakovsky and Matt Nieto, the latter of which was shorthanded, to give the Avalanche a commanding 6-3 lead. The four goals were scored in 2:21.
Matt Calvert and Donskoi added two more goals before the break, giving Colorado its first six-goal period of the season, matching a franchise record.
“We played the right way tonight, we kept it simple,” Graves said. “Low to high, getting the puck to the net. Crashing and banging in front of the net and making it tough on (Rinne).”
Late in the third period, the Avalanche drew a penalty, giving Donskoi the opportunity to finish the hat-trick, which gave the Avs a commanding 9-4 lead with chants of “we want 10,” echoing through the Pepsi Center in the final moments.
While the hat-trick was a career highlight for Donskoi, the victory for the team and an opportunity to help the Avalanche snap out of a losing streak was more important.
“I love that. I loved that as any coach would, as any teammate would,” Bednar said. “He puts the team first. I noticed that with him a lot. But what I really liked about his game today was his puck protection in the offensive zone. You look at the work him and Calvert were doing. MacKinnon was able to dart in and out of the offensive zone and get himself in dangerous scoring areas. They did some of the heavy lifting to get MacKinnon the puck.”
Bednar paired Donskoi and Nathan MacKinnon with Matt Calvert and the line did not disappoint. MacKinnon led the Avalanche with three assists and four points, with 10 shots on goal in just 14:58.
MacKinnon sat out the third period for precautionary reasons, alongside defenseman Nikita Zadorov who also did not play the final period with a lower-body injury.
Cale Makar and Graves impressive as a pairing. Makar got the scoring just 49 seconds into the first period. Paired with Graves, the blueliners each finished with three points. Makar’s 15 points leads all NHL rookies in scoring.
“We’ve seen it from last year, over the summer going into this year, they continue to develop and continue to take strides as professionals,” defenseman Mark Barberio said. “It’s great to see. We’re a team that prides ourselves on our depth throughout the lineup and I think it showed tonight.”
Pavel Francouz did not have a strong night, but it didn’t matter. Francouz may not have expected to start tonight. But after it was announced this morning that goalie Philipp Grubauer was day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Francouz was suddenly inserted into a crucial divisional rival matchup. He made 20 saves in earning his third victory of the season.
Zadorov played a team-low 7:13. Missing the third period played a large part in the lack of ice-time for the defenseman, but Zadorov playing less than eight minutes through 40 minutes, meaning his injury may be more severe than just a precaution. Bednar said after the game that he has no updates on Zadorov.
Stats of the Night
- Coming into tonight, the six Avalanche defenseman that dressed had 24 points through 15 games. They combined for two goals and eight points against the Predators.
- MacKinnon led all Avalanche forwards through the first period with 9:19 time on ice. He had 10 shot attempts, seven on goal, and had drawn two penalties. He also scored a power-play goal to give Colorado a 2-1 lead.
The Avalanche will close out their two-game homestand at 7 p.m. MST on Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.