Just as the Toronto Maple Leafs came into Denver and defeated the Avalanche nearly two weeks ago, the Avs returned the favor on Wednesday, winning 3-1 over Toronto at Scotiabank Arena.
Colorado (17-8-2) has now won four straight games and could very well get two more vital pieces of their offense back on Thursday.
Jared Bednar announced after the morning skate that two of the Avs’ top four wingers, Gabe Landeskog and Andre Burakovsky, could return against the Montreal Canadiens. The Avalanche welcomed forward Matt Calvert back to the lineup tonight after getting winger Mikko Rantanen back on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s game was a big one for Avs center Nazem Kadri in particular. After spending 10 years as part of the Maple Leafs organization, Kadri was traded to Colorado over the summer, making his first return back to Toronto as a member of the Avalanche.
Colorado jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second period, as center Nathan MacKinnon wristed the puck past goalie Frederik Anderson on the power play. After the Maple Leafs tied the game nearly two minutes later, the two teams entered the third deadlocked at one goal apiece.
Early in the third, the Avalanche were gifted an opportunity to take control. Rantanen was high-sticked just 16 seconds in, giving the Avs a four-minute power play. Toronto shut Colorado’s man-advantage down and drew a penalty moments later to get their own opportunity at taking the lead.
Colorado weathered the storm, killing off a majority of the penalty before forward Valeri Nichushkin, who was robbed by Andersen and the post earlier in the contest, took the puck from the Leafs at his own blue line and rushed into the zone, beating the goalie on the breakaway and giving the Avs the lead off his first career shorthanded goal.
Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer was solid the rest of the way, as the Avs added an empty-netter late to seal the victory.
MacKinnon’s point streak continues. After scoring the first goal and assisting on the empty-net goal from forward Joonas Donskoi, MacKinnon increased his point streak to eight games. MacKinnon has seven goals and 18 points while recording multiple points in four straight games for the fourth time in his career.
MacKinnon has 44 points, tied with Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins for third in the NHL.
Nichushkin continues to earn Bednar’s trust. His goal tonight was his first game-winning goal in over four years. It was also just the fourth one he’s scored in his career. Nichushkin’s play today continues to show that Avs coach Jared Bednar has gained trust in the Russian. He continues to play on the penalty kill while also seeing time on the second power-play unit. Nichushkin saw over 17 minutes of ice-time for the third straight game on Wednesday.
Grubauer played perhaps his best game of the season. The goaltender was solid throughout the entire contest, making 38 saves for his 10th win of the season. In the third, the Avalanche needed Gruabuer to be strong and he delivered in a big way, stopping all 16 Toronto shots.
Colorado returns to action against the Canadiens at 5 p.m. MST on Thursday for an opportunity to win its fifth straight game.