DETROIT — Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog made perhaps the most selfless play one can make in hockey—by taking a hit to make a play—to set up the eventual game-winning goal Monday in a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings, who haven’t beaten the Avs in three seasons, were celebrating ‘90s night’ at Little Caesars Arena. But make no mistake about it, this is not those same 90s Red Wings.
Far from it, actually.
Colorado (40-18-7) got the game-tying goal from Vladislav Namestnikov in the first period before Landeskog’s setup to Logan O’Connor to win its season-high seventh straight game and ninth straight on the road.
Landeskog received a pass from center Nathan MacKinnon at the Avalanche’s blue line and quickly turned and sent the puck up to O’Connor, who sprung in on the breakaway. But just as Landeskog made the play, he was leveled by Detroit’s Robby Fabbri.
“I kinda saw Fabbri coming late,” Landeskog said. “But I still had time to see that O’Connor had his guy beat at the blueline. I wasn’t trying to make a great tape-to-tape pass but that was just how it ended up working out.”
O’Connor joined the Avalanche the same day that Namestnikov and goaltender Michael Hutchinson were acquired. And all three of them were catalysts in Colorado’s victory. Even with all the faces, there was still an appreciation for one of the team’s longest-serving players.
“Gabe taking a selfless play there to take the hit and lead to my breakaway was awesome,” O’Connor said. “Just little plays like that have really snowballed this team ahead.”
Landeskog’s assist pushed his point streak to five games. He has eight points in eight games since right winger Mikko Rantanen was injured. Those efforts have helped the Avalanche pull to within one point of the St. Louis Blues with a game in hand for first place in the Western Conference.
“For that play to come from our leader is not really surprising,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We needed someone to do it and we’ve had different guys step up on different nights.”
Namestnikov’s goal was important for a few reasons. It was not only his first goal. But it was a game-winning goal that clinched a six-game winning streak where each victory has been decided by one goal.
Colorado surrendered the first goal of the game, something it’s done just 22 times this season, but the newcomer capitalized on a loose puck in the crease to make it 1-1 late in the first period.
The winger was paired with MacKinnon and Landeskog while the Avalanche continues to play without their two highest point-producing wingers in Andre Burakovsky and Rantanen.
“That’s Vlad’s best game since he’s been here,” Bednar said about Colorado’s trade deadline acquisition. “It looked like his first game he was thinking too much. Second game he got a little better and more involved and we’ve been playing him with Landeskog and MacKinnon now. I thought he made an impact with us tonight.”
The other acquisition at last Monday’s deadline, Hutchinson, celebrated his 30th birthday with a victory in his Avalanche debut. The former Maple Leafs goaltender made 18 saves, including eight in the third period with Colorado holding onto a one-goal lead.
“I think they scored on their first scoring chance,” Bednar said about Hutchinson’s performance. “But as the game went on I can see him get a little more comfortable and a little more confident.”
Rookie defenseman Cale Makar was listed as day-to-day after being ruled out with an upper-body injury. … Samuel Girard was paired with Makar’s usual partner, Ryan Graves, and Mark Barberio was inserted into the lineup and paired with Nikita Zadorov. … Burakovsky missed his second straight game with an injury after returning on Friday from a two-game absence due to illness. … Valeri Nichushkin left the ice halfway through the pregame warmup after taking a puck to the face but was back in time for puck drop. … Colorado will play 12 of its remaining 17 games on home ice, where it is 17-9-5, compared to a league-best 23-9-2 on the road.
- Gabriel Landeskog: He didn’t have much time to make that play before getting hit, but his pass was certainly the play of the game.
- Logan O’Connor: Was playing in the American Hockey League a week ago and now has his first game-winning NHL goal.
- Michael Hutchinson: First game with a new team. First win with a new team.
Colorado hosts the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday with a chance to pass the Blues for first place in the Western Conference.