Revenge is best served in the form of two points. The Avalanche got their retaliation on the Boston Bruins and Taylor Hall for knocking star center Nathan MacKinnon out of the game in the opening period.
But they certainly chose to make it difficult on themselves.
Throughout the second period, the Avs said forget the game, let’s get Hall. In the third period, they said forget about Hall, let’s win this game.
And they did — 4-3 in overtime — following a power-play goal from star defenseman Cale Makar to erase a two-goal deficit and increase their winning streak at Ball Arena to 17 games on Wednesday.
“Going into the third period, we knew that we still have a chance to win the game and we’re never out of it,” Makar said following his 17th goal of the season and fifth game-winner.
This was always going to be a battle between two of the NHL’s best teams. The Avalanche were putting their home winning streak on the line against one of the Eastern Conference’s best.
It turned into an intense showdown. One with emotional highs and lows because of the hit on MacKinnon, the attempted retaliation and the eventual comeback.
Following a faceoff in the defensive zone, MacKinnon skated up the ice but was the recipient of a shoulder check from Hall, and as a result of the contact, had his own stick pushed up into his face.
MacKinnon was down and bloodied before being helped to the locker room by the medical staff, effectively ending his night.
Upon further review, Hall was given just a two-minute minor for interference. The officials had initially dinged him for a five-minute major.
“I didn’t like it. Blindside, little late, little high,” Avs coach Jard Bednar said of the hit. “I had a chance to review it and Nate’s stick goes up so I believe that they made the right call on the two. But don’t love the hit. It’s the type of hit the league is trying to get rid of.”
From that moment, the Avs were unable to let the hit go. At least not until the third period.
They managed to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to a rare goal from team tough guy Kurtis MacDermid. His first of the season was not the type of retaliation expected from an enforcer, but it was welcomed by the home crowd. The announcement of MacDermid’s tally was met with deafening cheers.
Colorado then surrendered three goals in the second period. They lost focus because of the hit to MacKinnon, largely because of their inability to focus on the task at hand — winning a hockey game.
Hall was on the receiving end of a number of bumps from different Avalanche skaters. Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog tried on multiple occasions to sway Hall into a fight but was unsuccessful.
“When one of your best friends, teammates and ultimately your best player gets hit like that in the neutral zone, we just got to make sure that next time anybody thinks about doing that they have to pay a price and that there’s going to be some consequences,” Landeskog said.
“I was trying to force him to do it. But he didn’t want to.”
Boston eventually got the upper hand in the middle period because of a penalty called against Avs veteran defenseman Erik Johnson. With the Avalanche already on the penalty kill following a tripping call on Andre Burakosky, Johnson was behind his own goal and began to cross-check Hall. The officials let the first few slide before eventually calling him for the obvious minor infraction.
His penalty gave Boston a 5-on-3 powerplay for a full minute, which they capitalized on 44 seconds later. Then with Johnson still in the box, the Bruins continued to gain momentum and scored to take a commanding two-goal lead just as his penalty expired.
“There are times when I don’t like what certain players are doing on the ice and I feel like I have to keep putting them out there,” Bednar said of Johnson’s penalty. “It’s mistakes like that mistake that cost you games.”
The Avs started their valiant comeback right when the third period began. They instantly started to pepper Bruins netminder Linus Ullmark, putting 18 shots on him in the frame. Ullmark was largely up to the task and robbed the Avalanche on a number of occasions.
But an eventual shot from Samuel Girard at the blue line trickled past him, setting up the Avs with just a one-goal deficit heading into the final moments. Bednar pulled goalie Darcy Kuemper and the game-tying goal was scored with just 37 seconds remaining.
Landeskog sent the game to overtime.
“Val (Nichushkin) slid it over to Naz (Kadri) and Naz fake the shot,” Landeskog recalled. “He saw me coming out of the corner and obviously that’s a long movement for the goalie so I was just trying to get a shot off quick. I was excited.”
Landeskog pitched in with an assist on Makar’s game-winner and Kadri had three helpers. Nichushkin, who assisted on MacDermid’s goal in the first period, also drew the penalty that led to Makar’s game-winning goal.
The Avalanche have had comeback wins in January. Most notably was an unforgettable effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs where they trailed by three goals. But like that night, and many others. They still believed they could win it.
And it was ultimately that belief that gave them that extra push.
“I can hear the belief. I hear the chatter on the bench,” Bednar said. “And then we find a way to make it 3-2 and then 3-3. Then we make a nice play in overtime to draw a penalty and we end up getting a win.”
Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.
Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif