Avalanche routs Minnesota 5-1 to begin four-game “series” against Wild – The Denver Post
Round 1 goes to the Avalanche, which takes a three-game winning streak in Sunday’s second round.
To begin a four-game slate with the Minnesota Wild, rookie forward Logan O’Connor scored on his first shift of the season and Mikko Rantanen added his NHL-high seventh goal as Colorado defeated the Wild 5-1 on Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer, who produced his NHL-leading sixth victory, faced just 20 shots — partly because they were given seven power plays. Minnesota (5-4) mustered just four shots in the third period.
“It was really good. Five-on-5 we were good all night, hungry on pucks,” said Rantanen, who was unaware of his new record for goals to begin a season. “Our forecheck was working and that’s how we got some of those goals. We were playing well. Great win and good overall game.”
Said Avs coach Jared Bednar: “We find a way to stay out of the box. We had seven power plays and only got called for two (penalties). We were checking, using our legs, kept our sticks down, weren’t clutching and grabbing.”
Joonas Donskoi and J.T. Compher scored power-play goals — extending the Avs’ league-high to 14 on the season — and Colorado was 2-for-2 on penalty killing to extend their streak to 19 consecutive kills.
Star center Nathan MacKinnon had two assists, the latter on Brandon Saad’s goal at 12:17 of the third period. Compher added a power-play goal minutes later to turn it into another rout. Colorado has outscored its opponents 15-4 in its last three games.
The Avs lost veteran defenseman Erik Johnson early in the first period to an injury, after the alternate captain absorbed a big hit from Jordan Greenway.
Rantanen scored the only goal of the second period. It came 3:07 in and made him the first Avalanche player to score in the first five road games of a season. Rantanen took a drop pass from MacKinnon and ripped a wrist inside the far post of goalie Kaapo Kahkonen.
The Avs took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission after Donskoi scored in the final minute of the first period. In the first man-advantage opportunity of the game, Saad made a blind backhanded pass from behind the Wild net and Donskoi tapped it in from the top of the crease.
Donskoi’s fourth tally of the season is second-most on the team behind Rantanen. Saad, following a slow start, has multiple-point games in his last three.
“Special teams did a great job tonight and 5-on-5 we locked it down,” Saad said.
The Avs entered the game with an NHL-most 12 power-play goals, converting at 31.6%. They failed to score late in the first period after Wild defenseman Carson Soucy took a double-minor for high-sticking, but Minnesota continued to take penalties and the Avs ultimately made them pay with Compher’s goal — his first of the season.
Colorado scored first for the seventh time in nine games. O’Connor, who was replacing the injured Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (lower-body), used a wrist shot from the high slot to give the Avs a 1-0 lead 3:02 into the game.
O’Connor’s shot appeared to be off-target but Kahkonen had lost grip of his stick and the puck caromed in off of it.
Minnesota answered at 6:49 when defenseman Matt Dumba’s wrist shot caromed in off Grubauer’s mask.
Footnotes. In addition to Bellemare, the Avs played without forward Matt Calvert (upper-body injury), defenseman Devon Toews (foot) and goalie Pavel Francouz (lower-body). … The Wild was without key forward Kevin Fiala, who began a three-game suspension for a reckless hit against Los Angeles on Thursday. Fiala led Minnesota in scoring last season. … Defenseman Ian Cole played in his sixth game with the Wild after being acquired from Colorado on Jan. 19. The Avs received defenseman Greg Pateryn for Cole and $1.2 million in cap relief. Pateryn is currently on Colorado’s taxi squad.