The Colorado Avalanche wrapped up their five-game road trip with a visit to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night to face the surging New York Rangers. After surrendering 20 goals in the first four games of the trip, a familiar refrain this season, the team was in desperate need of a strong defensive showing. While the Avalanche limited the Rangers to three goals, defense wasn’t the story. Colorado scored five unanswered goals in the second period to defeat the Rangers 7-3, snapping New York’s seven-game winning streak.
The Rangers were playing the second game of a back-to-back, and it showed. They looked fatigued and out of synch at times and couldn’t match Colorado’s speed and agility. New York started rookie Adam Huska in goal, who was making his NHL debut. He stopped 32 of 39 shots.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Avalanche’s Scoring Depth
Thirteen players on the Avalanche roster had at least one point on the evening, and five of those 13 had a multi-point game. The three best performances of the contest belonged to Nazem Kadri, Logan O’Connor, and Mikko Rantanen. Kadri, whose number seems to get called every game, had a goal and two assists, finishing the night with a team-best plus-4 rating. The performance gives Kadri 34 points in 22 games on the season, which puts him in fourth place in the league, behind only Connor McDavid (43), Leon Draisaitl (43), and Alex Ovechkin (41).
O’Connor and Rantanen had two goals each in the game; O’Connor’s scored just 22 seconds apart late in the second period. The pair of goals ended a 10-game goal-scoring drought for the young forward and gave him the first multi-goal game of his career. He finished the night with a plus-3 rating.
Two other Avalanche players turned in noteworthy performances. Rookie center Alex Newhook had a goal for the third straight game. After being sent down to the Colorado Eagles, the Avalanche’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, earlier in the season, Newhook is starting to find his stride, showing why the team selected him in the first round (16th overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft. After the departure of Joonas Donskoi and Brandon Saad in the offseason, the team needs Newhook and O’Connor to play at a high level.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog had an assist on the night, extending his point streak to nine games. Fresh off an eight-year contract extension that will likely see him remain in an Avalanche sweater for the rest of his career, the Stockholm, Sweden native is quietly putting together one of his best seasons, averaging more than a point per game, something he’s done only once before (2018-19).
With the seven goals, Colorado upped their season average to 4.26 goals per game, the best in the NHL – However, their 3.43 goals-against per game is sixth-worst in the league.
Kuemper Back in Net
The Avalanche’s defensive woes in the first four games of the road trip were partly due to the play of their third and fourth-string goaltenders, Jonas Johansson and Justus Annunen (respectively). Johansson got the call to fill in for the team’s starter, Darcy Kuemper, who was injured mere hours before the first game of the trip versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, a game the Avalanche lost 8-3. (The team’s second-string goaltender, Pavel Francouz, is on a rehab assignment with the Eagles and is expected to rejoin the Avalanche soon.)
Kuemper returned to the lineup last night against the Rangers and stopped 26 of 29 shots. It wasn’t a stellar performance, but it was better than the Avalanche have seen in days and good enough to allow the offense to take control of the game.
Kuemper did leave the ice briefly in the second period when he had an issue with his right pad. It’s the third time this season that he has had an equipment malfunction. Johansson was in net while the issue was resolved; he recorded one save.
Trouba Being Trouba
For the second straight game, Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba laid a questionable hit, this time on Nathan MacKinnon midway through the second period. While the hit was deemed legal, Trouba led with his shoulder and clipped MacKinnon’s head, sending the Avalanche superstar first to the ice and then to the “quiet room” to undergo evaluation.
Landeskog, who has a reputation for defending his teammates, immediately dropped the gloves and challenged Trouba. The two fought to a half-hearted draw, though Landeskog received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for instigating, giving the Rangers a power play. MacKinnon, who had one goal in the game, returned in the third period.
A night earlier, Trouba laid another massive open-ice hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Jujar Khaira. As he did against MacKinnon, Trouba led with his shoulder and caught Khaira in the head. Khaira was taken from the ice on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital. He was released Wednesday and is expected to make a full recovery, though no timetable for his return has been announced.
After reviewing the hit on Khaira, the NHL Department of Player Safety elected not to penalize Trouba, which drew the ire of some around the league. Whether or not the hit on MacKinnon will be reviewed remains to be seen.
Up Next for the Avalanche
The Avalanche finished the road trip with a 3-2 record and are 10-2-1 in their last 13 games. They are in second place in the Central Division. The team returns home to Ball Arena in Denver on Friday to face their old rival, the Detroit Red Wings.
Hockey dad, beer league hockey captain, rabid Avalanche fan. Author of five novels for young adults, including The Scar Boys, Life in a Fishbowl, and Hard Wired. Lives in Littleton, Colorado with two middle school-age kids, one awesome wife, and three pets. Voted least likely to break 100 on a golf course.