Slump busters aren’t always pretty but man do they feel good. Just ask Avalanche center Nazem Kadri, who scored his first goal in 20 games from a tough angle to tie the game against the San Jose Sharks 4-4 on Monday with 3:39 remaining to force overtime.
The Avalanche won on the first shot in OT, defeating San Jose 5-4 thanks to a goal from Andre Burakovsky.
But the tight-angle snipe from Kadri that found twine was just what the 30-year-old needed heading into the final six games of the regular season. This just may be the perfect time for him to return to form heading into what many are expecting to be an extended playoff run for the burgundy and blue.
The Deen’s List:
Kadri’s slump buster
That’s the type of goal, the moment it was going to take to break Kadri out of his 20-game goal slump.
With the Avalanche trailing 4-3 with under five minutes to go, Kadri skated into the zone and fired the puck over the shoulder of goalie Martin Jones from a tight angle to tie the game and give the Avs the opportunity to win the game in OT.
Kadri had just three assists during this 20-game stretch.
He had an exceptional run in the playoffs in 2020, scoring nine goals (five game-winners) and 18 points in just 15 games. If this was the goal that sets him up for another long and successful postseason performance, then the 2021 version of the Avs may very well make it past the dreaded second round.
MacKinnon’s road glory
Being dominant on the road isn’t easy. But when you’re superstar Nathan MacKinnon, everything is easy. MacKinnon’s two assists extended his road point streak to 17 games — the most in club history and second-most in franchise history behind Quebec’s Peter Stastny (23 games in 1983-84).
MacKinnon’s 65 points lead the Avalanche. His 36 road points are the second-most in the NHL (Connor McDavid, 40) as the Avs prepare to play four more games away from home to close out their road schedule.
MacKinnon had nine shots for the second consecutive game.
Regardless of who your opponent is, four-game sweeps in consecutive games are not easy.
The Avalanche have a chance to win four straight against the Sharks on Wednesday. Colorado has outscored San Jose 12-7 in three games, including a 3-0 shutout in the first game Friday.
The Avalanche dominated most of the first period. But that was after the first goal from San Jose’s Evander Kane at 3:20 which came after a turnover. Avs forward Valeri Nichushkin tried to pass the puck back to a defender instead of getting it out of the zone and San Jose intercepted it and scored.
The second period was worse. Colorado was outshot 13-2, outscored 2-0 and both goals were the direct result of turnovers. The first Sharks goal of the period came after Avs defenseman Patrik Nemeth passed the puck into the skate of teammate Tyson Jost in his own zone.
The second goal was an offensive zone turnover after left winger Gabe Landeskog shot the puck into a Sharks defender, who quickly passed it to Evander Kane, sending him in on a breakaway.
Turnovers happen. But if they happen this often then you’re likely not going to make a deep playoff run. Colorado’s priorities heading into the playoffs are to stay healthy and eliminate bad habits. This is one of those bad habits that can’t happen.
And speaking of staying healthy, COVID still exists. And it’s likely going to have an impact on the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The 2020 playoffs were COVID free, largely because of the successful bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto. That won’t be the case this year. And for the only team that’s had two COVID pauses in 2021, the potential for more COVID risk is very much a possibility.
Backup goalie Devan Dubnyk was added to the COVID protocol list Monday after testing positive Avs coach Jared Bednar said. Dubnyk will remain in his San Jose home and quarantine for 10 days before driving back to Denver.
He is out for a minimum of two weeks.