On a night where the Avalanche struggled defensively, goaltender Pavel Francouz picked up the slack to help the Avs to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday at the Pepsi Center.
Francouz stopped 37 shots, including 15 in the third period to secure Colorado’s 21st win of the season. The 29-year-old has appeared in each of the last five games (4-0-1).
“That game is all Frankie,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We get a really nice power-play goal, great execution. We score a couple of tap-in goals but that game is all Frankie. And maybe the last one before that and the one before that.”
Francouz improved his personal record to 9-2-1. His .932 save percentage leads the Avs and is tied for fourth in the NHL and his 2.26 goals-against average is tied for sixth with former Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov.
Not bad for a player that came over from Russia just 18 months ago.
“I don’t know how well all our fans know him but this kid is salt of the earth,” Bednar said. “He’s an extremely humble guy, unbelievable person, unselfish. He’s as good a teammate as you can ask for.”
The Avs took a 1-0 lead in the first period after captain Gabe Landeskog one-timed a feed from center Nathan MacKinnon. Despite surrendering the only goal of the period, New Jersey outshot Colorado 13-6, but Francouz was perfect in the first, just as he was in the second.
Forward Valeri Nichushkin scored the only goal in the second—his sixth in ten games after going scoreless in 91—to give Colorado a two-goal cushion.
The Avalanche were unable to stop the Devils offense in the third, eventually giving up a goal with under five minutes remaining. MacKinnon added an empty-net tally in the final minute.
“We found a way to win,” Bednar said. “I’m not going to be upset after wins. It’s a perfect day for a day off tomorrow. Get the guys away from the rink and reset for next week.”
Francouz’s personal point streak reaches eight games. To go along with the Avalanche’s nine-game point streak, Francouz is 7-0-1 in his past eight decisions. After starting the season 2-2, Francouz has won every game he’s completed except for the overtime loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday.
“Playing every other day you kind of get into a rhythm,” Francouz said. “We have plenty of time to rest now.”
MacKinnon reaches 50 points. And he’s the third player in the NHL to reach the half-century mark. MacKinnon’s 20 goals are tied with Oilers forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the only two players with more points than him. He trails the duo by seven and five assists, respectively, and has played in two fewer games.
The highest-scoring team in the league is now a top-10 defensive team. After surrendering just two goals over the past two games, Colorado is eighth in goals against per game, at 2.69. Its offense continues to lead the league in both total goals (117) and goals per game (3.66).
Stat of the Night
The Avalanche were 34-for-55 in the faceoff circle, winning 62 percent of their draws. It was their second-best performance in the circle this season after going 64% against the Oilers two weeks ago.