Playing their first game in 16 days, the Avalanche shook off a rusty start against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday to rally for a 4-2 victory at Ball Arena.
Colorado trailed 2-0 and seemed lifeless for more than half the game before rallying back. The game-winning goal — a backdoor tap-in from Logan O’Connor off a Nathan MacKinnon pass — put the Avs ahead 3-2 with just 1:11 remaining. Forward Mikko Rantanen later added an empty-netter to put the game away and give the Avs their ninth straight victory on home ice.
MacKinnon assisted on each of the Avalanche’s three third-period goals, improving to 24 in just 18 games. Despite missing 10 games, MacKinnon is still on pace for a whopping 96 assists if he plays in each of the last 54 games to close out the year.
The Avs scored twice on the power play to claw back after trailing 2-0 thanks to goals from Devon Toews and Gabriel Landeskog. Colorado was 2-for-5 on the man advantage, improving to eighth-best in the NHL (24.1 percent).
Defenseman Bowen Byram returned after missing a month with head-related injuries. He had two shots in 18:35. It was just his third game since Nov. 11, where he suffered a concussion after a strong start to the season.
Kuemper’s strong finish
After a sluggish start and a first-period goal he’d likely want back, Avs goalie Darcy Kuemper was solid to close out the game. Kuemper stopped all six shots in the third period to give the Avalanche an opportunity to complete the comeback. He finished with 29 saves to earn his ninth victory in 10 starts and improve to 14-5 on the season.
Perhaps the most underrated performance of the day, Toews had his handprints all over the miraculous comeback. Toews was strong defensively in the early going, using his stick to stop two golden opportunities for the opposition. And as he’s done all season, his clutch offensive instincts kicked in midway through the second period to finally help Colorado breakthrough Gibson, who was having a stellar night.
Toews’ strong season has not gone unnoticed. Not only has he been the Avs’ best defensive blueliner, but he also has had an offensive breakthrough. His five goals and 21 points have come in just 17 games.
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