During his post-game interview, moments after scoring the overtime winner of a 5-4 victory, Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon was candid in his remarks regarding the final minutes of regulation and the chain of events that led to the Canucks game-tying goal.
“It’s unfortunate, that situation with Calvy,” MacKinnon said. “It’ll be nice to get a whistle there for his own safety. It’s not even about the goal. It’s just, we got a guy laying there, not moving, bleeding out of the side of his head, it’s tough. But yeah it’s good to get the win.”
Colorado (12-6-2) led 4-2 heading into the final three minutes of regulation. After the Canucks pulled their goalie and started to cycle the puck in the offensive zone, a shot by Canuck Elias Pettersson struck the side of forward Matt Calvert’s head, sending the Avalanche player to the ice, holding the side of his head.
Calvert attempted to get up multiple times but was unable to as the play continued. The Canucks eventually scored, causing an understandable amount of frustration from Colorado players on the ice and the bench. And many of them made that very clear after the game had concluded.
“It’s a (bleeping) joke,” defenseman Erik Johnson told reporters. “You want to protect a guy? Guy’s got a family at home, he’s lying there bleeding out of his head and you don’t blow the whistle? It’s a complete joke. An absolute joke. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
His sentiments were similar to those held by MacKinnon, albeit the forward was more detailed in his response.
“I don’t think it’s right,” MacKinnon added. “Even Pettersson was looking at Calvy, you can tell he was wondering if he was okay which was very classy by him.”
MacKinnon continued: “It’s not the Canucks fault, it’s not the ref’s fault, it’s just the rule. A league rule. The refs wanted to blow it, I can tell by their reactions they wanted to blow it down it’s just silly that they can’t. The guys laying there bleeding out the side of his head. And it’s Matt Calvert he’s such a tough guy he’s not looking for a whistle and faking it, so it’s unfortunate.”
MacKinnon finished the game with two goals and one assist, giving him 29 points through 20 games and 11 in his past five.
Defenseman Cale Makar, who just played his 20th career regular-season game, finished the night with four assists, the most he’s had in his young career. Makar leads all rookies in scoring and is just the third rookie defenseman to be the first of his class to 20 points in an NHL season. The other two? NHL greats Bobby Orr and Nicklas Lidstrom.
“He’s an amazing player, such a gifted player,” MacKinnon said, describing the rookie defenseman who climbed to 22 points tonight. “Like I said before the season, I thought he’d get 70 (points) but I might have to up that a little bit with the way he’s playing. Even when he’s not at his best in certain games he still finds a way to be an effective player.”
The Avalanche led 1-0 after Pierre-Edouard Bellemare tipped in a shot from the point. After the Canucks tied it before the break, MacKinnon made it 2-1 and then center Nazem Kadri added a goal to make it 3-1 in the second period. The Canucks scored late in the period once again, this time on the power play with just 1.5 seconds remaining in the second period.
The Avalanche jumped ahead by two after forward Andre Burakovsky added his third goal in two games, and eighth of the season to make It 4-2, setting up the events in the final moments that sent the game to overtime. Something that MacKinnon openly admitted the Canucks did not deserve.
“It just felt kind of cheesy. It didn’t really feel like they earned to tie it up,” he said. “It felt like, I don’t know, it just didn’t feel like it should have been an overtime game. I’m sure everyone felt the same way I did, we just wanted to end it as quick as possible, probably wanted to end it in the first shift and I’m glad I did.”
And at that moment, in overtime, MacKinnon said, “I’ll do it myself.”
And he was glad he did.