Following Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Avalanche were looking to have a bounce-back game Friday night. And that’s just what they got at home against the Ottawa Senators on the first night of a back-to-back set.
It wasn’t pretty, nor easy, but the Avalanche fought their way to a 6-3 win on the backs of their top line once again, improving to 7-2-2 on the year.
“Tonight, a little sluggish, I thought,” coach Jared Bednar said. “I thought we started building momentum in the second period. It started with our top line having a couple of good shifts, they started earning more ice time, they got momentum for us, we earned some power plays.
“The second turned out to be a pretty good period,” Bednar continued. “We started shooting the puck more and getting it back. Then, in the third, I just thought we were outstanding.”
The game was Phillip Grubauer’s first home appearance of the year and a door step, short-side goal went past the Avs goalie on his blocker side on Ottawa’s first shot of the game. The goal was Ryan Dzingel’s at 2:42 in. From there on, the Avalanche faced an uphill battle.
The team was flat and the building was silent as the Avalanche lacked any ability to pose a real offensive threat throughout the first period. Then came a real dagger to the team’s morale.
After a brief, almost insincere on-screen tribute on the Pepsi Center jumbotron, Matt Duchene buried his first goal of the night after a puck shot from the point bounced off of the former Colorado player in front of the net and gave the Senators a 2-0 lead.
The second period looked a bit better from the home team and, half-way through, Sam Girard was able to score his first of the year when he found a puck in front of the crease on a broken play and tucked it into a wide-open net.
12 seconds later, Matt Duchene sucked the life out of the building once again when he put home a one-timer on a two-on-one rush scoring his second goal of the night and third of the year.
“We were pressing hard, it was a 2-0 game, we got it 2-1– a big goal,” Mikko Rantanen said on the team’s mentality following Duchene’s goal. “We were talking about having the next goal, obviously the next shift is always important, but that’s hockey sometimes. There are pretty good players on every team, sometimes they score, somtimes it’s right after our goal. We bounced back after that.”
The Avalanche found an apparent spark from the Duchene goal as they suddenly seemed to play with a bit more energy. A Bobby Ryan penalty led to the always dangerous Avalanche power-play unit getting their first power play of the night.
Mikko Rantanen hammered a one-timer of his own from the circle and breathed some life into the crowd and his team. The goal was Rantanen’s fifth goal of the year and Colorado’s tenth power-play goal of the season.
The Avs carried their confidence into the third period where they took over the game and looked like the dangerous team everyone has grown accustomed to seeing. Colorado suddenly found their speed, the passing was more in sync, and they out-shot Ottawa 14-4.
“I love watching our team play like that,” Bednar commented on the dominant third period. “Ideally you’d like to play like the 60 minutes every night. I don’t know how feasible that is, but to know we have that in us, we can go back to this and look at it and keep encouraging our guys to repeat it, it’s a step in the right direction.”
The comeback started with a Carl Soderberg power-play goal on a fortuitous bounce that tied the game at three and from there, Colorado couldn’t be stopped.
The next goal, the game-winner, came just over five minutes after Soderberg’s when Gabe Landeskog received a pass between an Ottawa defenseman’s legs from Rantanen and Landeskog scored short-side for his ninth of the year.
Nathan MacKinnon added a goal of his own, also his ninth of the year, assisted by each of his linemates, Landeskog and Rantanen, and the game was completely in Colorado’s control.
The scoring wasn’t over for the Avalanche and Nathan MacKinnon added one more point on the night when he assisted a Matt Nieto back-door goal for the sixth and final goal of the night.
Friday’s contest marks the fourth time this season the Avalanche have scored five goals or more, an impressive feat for a team who is still looking for more offensive contribution. The top line accounted for 10 points on the night.
The team has a quick turn around as the promptly left for Minnesota following the win to face a tough matchup on the second night of their back-to-back.
Puck drop Saturday will be at 6 PM MT.