Darcy Kuemper leaves Avalanche game with injury. But backup Pavel Francouz shines in shootout victory over Minnesota

Jan 17, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) is tended to by head athletic trainer Matt Sokolowski after a play in the second period against the Minnesota Wild at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper left the game with a presumed head injury midway through a 4-3 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

Wild forward Jordan Greenway collided with Kuemper coming around the net. His elbow made contact with the goalie and sent him to the ice, where he remained for several minutes. Greenway was given a two-minute minor for interference and had to answer the bell to Colorado’s toughest skater in Kurtis MacDermid, who received an extra minor penalty for instigating.

Listen to “Kuemper Down” on Spreaker.

The result of the collision was Kuemper leaving the game after being pulled by the concussion spotter and both sides playing 5-on-5.

“Our D’s not riding him in there,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of the play. “So I see him coming across the front of the net and then readjust his route and go right into Kuemper. Looks like it’s intentional to me and he gets his head. I don’t know how it can only be a two-minute penalty.”

Aside from the collision, the matinee at Ball Arena was an epic battle between two Central Division juggernauts that came down to the very last shot — a Pavel Francouz save on Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov — to extend the Avs’ home winning streak to 14 games.

Francouz was called upon after the Kuemper injury and made 24 saves on 26 shots before stopping all three in the shootout. The Avs backup netminder has stopped all six shots he’s faced in the shootout over the last four days.

“You know some players and what they like to do. But sometimes if you know too much, it can kind of mess you up,” Francouz said of his shootout preparation. “I’m just trying to calm down and try to tell myself to be patient and read the situation.”

Colorado jumped out to a first-period 2-0 lead thanks to a 5-on-3 power-play goal from Mikko Rantanen followed by another tally from rookie center Alex Newhook shortly after the second minor penalty against the Wild had expired.

Kuemper surrendered a goal early in the second period before he was pulled, stopping 12 of 13 shots and exiting the game when it was 2-1. It’s unclear when Kuemper could return and if he’ll be able to fly to California with the team on Tuesday for a two-game road trip.

“He wasn’t good enough to come back in the game so I don’t know where he’s gonna be at to be honest with you,” Bednar said. “We’ll see tomorrow how he responds.”

The Avs eventually coughed up the two-goal lead completely before coming back to take a 3-2 lead late in the third period. The goal by superstar center Nathan MacKinnon — finishing off a spectacular tic-tac-toe play with linemates Gabriel Landeskog and Rantanen — survived a lengthy review.

Minnesota goalie Kaopo Kahkonen slid from right to left and had swallowed up the puck with his skate and pad, which both slid into the goal following the save. Despite the puck not being visibly in the net, it was determined to be clearly under the skate of the goaltender that had slid well over the goal line.

“I didn’t know if they were going to count it or not. I don’t know the ruling,” MacKinnon said of the review. “Obviously it’s under his foot.”

Bednar expressed his lack of confidence on if the intitial no-goal ruling would be overturned.

“My advice while that was going on while they were watching was, I just told Landy to tell (the official) to play it forward a little bit,” Bednar said. “You’re only looking at it the one direction when his pads going in so it’s tough to see it. As soon as he started to bring it out of the net and their player starts putting his skate behind it, you clearly see the puck stuck in the tip of his skate and pad.”

Regarding the collision that knocked Kuemper out of the game, Bednar reiterated his hope that the league steps in.

“I’m sure the league will look at it,” he said. “It’s not a reviewable play so I think the refs handled it fine. I thought maybe it could have been four or a major depending on how you see it, how fast you think he’s going and how intentional you think it is. So I didn’t really have a problem with what they called.

“Now I’d like to see the league look at it.

Colorado had to play without second-line forward Valeri Nichushkin following a positive COVID test. Nichushkin is asymptomatic and could rejoin the team on Thursday in L.A. if he passes testing protocol on Wednesday.

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Aarif Deen
 is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.

Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

Listen to “Kuemper Down” on Spreaker.

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