Winning in regulation against a divisional rival is valuable. And that’s what the Avalanche obtained on Tuesday night.
Nazem Kadri scored with 39.7 seconds left in the third period to lift the Avs to a 3-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
Kadri picked up the rebound just above the crease of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury thanks to a point shot from 19-year-old Avs defenseman Bowen Byram, helping Colorado (8-4-1) even the series at 1-1 in the midst of a four-game series against Vegas.
The two teams will meet at Lake Tahoe on Saturday.
“Massive,” Kadri said of the regulation win. “For us, that was an important victory. Especially in regulation, down quite a few guys against a great team.”
The Avalanche were again without star defenseman Cale Makar, who was a game-time decision. Captain Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Sam Girard remained on the COVID-19 protocol list and veteran Erik Johnson was absent because of injury, among the seven regulars that were missing from the lineup.
Landeskog and Makar are expected to return in time for Saturday’s outdoor game. But Girard, who was a late addition to the COVID list, will not skate until Sunday.
Goalie Philipp Grubauer outdueled Fleury just two nights after Fleury recorded a 1-0 shutout against the Avalanche. Grubauer made 27 saves to earn his eighth victory of the season.
“We needed an excellent performance from him and we got it,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said.
Colorado led 1-0 after the first period and 2-1 at the second intermission thanks to goals from superstar Nathan MacKinnon and winger Brandon Saad. MacKinnon’s goal broke a seven-game goal-scoring drought at 7:08.
For Saad, his sixth of the season came just 63 seconds after the Golden Knights tied the game at 1-1 late in the second period. The Avalanche later surrendered the lead once more before the late-game heroics from Kadri — negating the division rival Golden Knights from securing a point in the standings.
“It was a competitive game. Under the circumstances for our team, finding a way to carve out a win tonight in regulation especially was exceptional,” Bednar said. “We found a way to get it done. So we’ll take the two points and run.”
The outdoor game precedes a fourth game between the two clubs at Ball Arena on Monday. Colorado has a chance to continue to close the gap in the standings with Vegas, which leads the West Division.
“You want to take as many points as you can and not give teams any hope towards the end,” Saad said, as the Avs pull within four points of the Golden Knights with a game in hand. “All these points add up and for us to be able to steal that second one in the last minute, that’s huge for us.”
Playing on the top pair with Devon Toews, Byram set a new career-high with 25:03 of ice time — the second-most on the team behind Toews. Byram and Timmins have been thrust into top-four roles because of absences to Makar, Girard and Johnson. And the two have delivered.
“I thought he was excellent the other night,” Bednar said of Byram’s play. “With the guys we’ve had out of the lineup, these guys are getting tested. There’s no hiding them out there, they’re playing against other teams’ top lines. We have our young guys both him and Timmins playing against them in all situations.”
Gilbert drops the gloves: Defenseman Dennis Gilbert made his presence felt in the early going. The offseason trade acquisition dropped the gloves with Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar at 1:56 of the first period. While the spirited bout was not favored towards either fighter, Gilbert seemed to withstand at least two quality punches from Kolesar. He did not return to the game — playing just 1:58
Mark your calendars: The NHL announced Tuesday the rescheduling of four of the five games that were postponed during Colorado’s 12-day layoff.
Minnesota at Colorado changed from Feb. 4 to Feb. 24 at 7 PM.
Arizona at Colorado changed from Feb. 9 to Mar. 31 at 7:30 PM.
Arizona at Colorado changed from Feb. 11 to Apr. 12 at 7 PM.
Colorado at St. Louis changed from Feb. 6 to Apr 14 at 7 PM.
The game between the Avalanche and Blues originally scheduled for Feb. 7 will be rescheduled at a later time.