The Winnipeg Jets brought a three-game winning streak into Ball Arena in Denver on Thursday night but ran into the offensive juggernaut known as the Colorado Avalanche. On the strength three-goal second and third periods, Colorado defeated Winnipeg 7-1, securing their 10th consecutive win on home ice.
It was the Jets’ first trip to Denver since New Year’s Eve 2019, long enough ago that the venue was still known as the Pepsi Center. Despite a fast start by Winnipeg, with a goal early in the first period, and an aggressive style of play throughout the contest, they couldn’t match the speed and skill of the Avalanche.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Avalanche’s Big Stars Shine Bright
Colorado’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and team captain Gabriel Landeskog accounted for five of Colorado’s seven goals. Landeskog had a hat trick, MacKinnon had a goal and four assists, and Rantanen had a goal and two assists. It was Landeskog’s fourth career hat trick, and the third time in MacKinnon’s career, he had a five-point game.
Landeskog is quietly putting together the best season of his career. His 33 points in 24 games played equates to an average of 1.38 points per game. His previous best was in the 2018-19 season, when he scored 75 points in 73 games, for an average of 1.03 points per game, the only time in his career he finished a season with better than a one-point per game average. If he stays healthy for the rest of this year’s campaign, he’s on pace for 101 points, which would shatter his previous best, the 75 points in 2018-19.
But Landeskog’s value extends beyond tallying points, as he has established himself as an elite presence on the ice. While he is 24th in the NHL in points scored, his 49 penalty minutes (PIM) rank him ninth. None of the eight players in front of him on that list have scored more than 24 points. (Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins ranks 10th, with 47 PIM and 31 points.)
For MacKinnon, the goal breaks a five-game goalless streak, his second-longest of the season. (He went nine games from Oct. 26 to Dec. 6 without a goal.) But MacKinnon had nine assists in that five-game stretch, and with his five points tonight, he has 14 points in his last six games. His 33 total points this season (four goals, 29 assists) tie him with Landeskog, though MacKinnon has played five fewer games than his team’s captain and a minimum of seven fewer games than every player ahead of him on the list of league leaders. In fact, MacKinnon’s 1.65 points per game average is best in the NHL, ahead of Connor McDavid (1.61 points per game), Leon Draisaitl (1.56), and teammate Nazem Kadri (1.56).
Kadri and defenseman Bowen Byram scored Colorado’s other two goals. The Avalanche’s very productive defensive corps had a goal and four assists on the night.
Kuemper Stands on His Head
The only glaring weakness for the Avalanche this season has been the team’s penalty kill (PK). Heading into play, Colorado’s PK ranked 28th in the league. The Avalanche committed eight penalties, resulting in five power plays for the Jets, three in the third period. Other than allowing a power-play goal by Mark Scheifele early in the first period, goaltender Darcey Kuemper was the team’s best penalty killer for the rest of the contest.
Overall the Avalanche netminder stopped 34 of 35 shots, including 15 in the third period, four coming on a single power play. His most impressive save of the night came against a three-on-one rush by the Jets early in the second period, moving from his left to right to stop a strong scoring chance.
After an inconsistent start to the season, Kuemper has hit his stride, surrendering two goals in each of the three contests preceding this game, raising his save percentage to .908.
Avalanche Offense on Historic Pace
It was the 11th time Colorado has scored five or more goals this season and the seventh time they’ve scored seven goals. With the team getting healthy, with a relatively easy January schedule, and with games in hand, the Avalanche are poised to make a strong run at the top of the Central Division. Tonight’s win gives the Avalanche 42 points, good enough for third in the division, only one point behind the second-place St. Louis Blues, and two points behind the division-leading Nashville Predators.
Colorado improved to an average of 4.3 goals scored per game with the seven goals, the best since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins, who scored an average of 4.41 goals per game. The best mark in franchise history is the 1983-84 Quebec Nordiques, who averaged 4.5 goals per game.
Game Notes and Up Next
It was only the second loss in five contests for Jets head coach Dave Lowry, who was named interim head coach after the abrupt resignation of Paul Maurice on Dec. 17. Lowry’s son Adam plays center for Winnipeg.
Avalanche defenseman Ryan Murray returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 27.
On Saturday, the Avalanche are back in action at home as they seek retribution against Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who defeated Colorado 8-3 in December.
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.