Avalanche win home opener in familiar fashion

Oct 4, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov (1) makes a save as defenseman Nikita Zadorov (16) battles with Minnesota Wild right wing Nino Niederreiter (22) in front of net in the third period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In the 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild in Thursday night’s season opener, the Avalanche were up to their old tricks again, looking like the same team and winning in the same fashion we grew accustomed to last season.

“We played really well,” Avs star Nathan MacKinnon said. “We were solid through preseason, but we had a good week of practice and we were feeling good coming into tonight.”

Giving up an early lead on a Zach Parise goal, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon combining for the game-winner, and a spectacular Semyon Varlamov were all part of the almost predictable recipe for Colorado’s first win of the season.

The Avalanche controlled the pace of play from the get-go and more than doubled Minnesota’s shot count in each of the first two periods, ultimately outshooting the Wild 40-21.

“In the first and second, we were really good,” Mikko Rantanen said after his two-point night. “We were quick with the puck, we were shooting the puck. I think in the third we were a little bit flat, maybe because we had the lead, so we were defending too much.”

The third period wasn’t as dominant from the Avalanche forwards, however, it is where goaltender Semyon Varlamov really made his presence felt. Starting in his franchise-high eighth opening night in an Avs sweater, Varlamov stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faced including a handful of game-saving stops in the third period.

“He was really good. He made some really important saves there,” Rantanen commented on his goaltender’s play in the third. “He was there when we needed him and he was fun to watch.”

This year’s campaign is off to a strong start with the 4-1 win, but as we all know, the early stages of a hockey season still require a lot of tweaking and perfecting. Despite notching his first goal of the year, Nathan MacKinnon felt like there is much progress to be had.

“I thought I was a little rusty in the first,” MacKinnon stated. “I haven’t really played much in the preseason. I wish I got that third game in against Dallas, so I didn’t feel great in the first, but in the second and third I felt good. I got my legs going, started shooting some pucks and making plays so I felt better.”

MacKinnon ended the night with a game-high eight shots on goal.

Colorado has now won each of the last four contests against the Wild and hasn’t lost to their Central Division rivals at Pepsi Center since the wretched 2016-17 season.

The Avalanche hope to continue their progress Saturday night as they host the Philadelphia Flyers in game two of the 2018-19 season.

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