3 Takeaways From Avalanche’s 6-4 Win Over Penguins – 4/5/22

The Colorado Avalanche have been front-runners all season, and they continued that trend on Tuesday by becoming the first team to clinch a playoff spot. The Avs won their fourth game in a row, kicking off a three-game road trip with a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It’s the fifth consecutive season the Avalanche have qualified for the playoffs. They won the Presidents’ Trophy a year ago, and currently have the best record in the NHL.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s victory:

MacKinnon Takes Charge

He hadn’t scored a goal in his previous five games, but Nathan MacKinnon’s mini-slump ended abruptly on Tuesday. He scored a pair of goals in the victory, giving him 24 on the season while powering the Avalanche to the victory. It was his fourth multi-goal game of the season, and gave him 74 points in just 54 games.

Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

His first goal looked like a pretty pass to Mikko Rantanen – who was playing in his 400th career game – but got deflected into the net by Bryan Rust. There was no doubt about the second one, which gave Colorado a two-goal cushion midway through the second. MacKinnon slipped a wrister through heavy traffic past three Pittsburgh defenders on the way to a pretty top-shelf goal.

MacKinnon’s last goal before Tuesday came in Colorado’s 3-2 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers on March 21. He’s off to a good start in April, as he also had a pair of assists in the Avs’ 3-2 victory over the Penguins on Saturday. He’s also been an equal-opportunity scorer. The pair of goals on Tuesday gave him 12 on the road this season, matching the 12 he’s scored at home.

Newhook Getting Comfy

Alex Newhook scored a goal on Saturday against the Penguins, and added a big assist against them on Tuesday. The Colorado forward started a great rush that generated a tough save by Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. The rebound was a juicy one, and J.T. Compher made Jarry pay by smacking home the rebound. The goal came midway through the second period, and the Avalanche led the rest of the game.

Alex Newhook Colorado Avalanche
Alex Newhook, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Things are starting to heat up for Newhook, who is in his first full season with the Avalanche. He has a goal and two assists in his last three games. This surge came after Newhook had just two assists in the previous 14 games, including a stretch of 10 straight without scoring a point. That rough month of March ended with a goal against the San Jose Sharks on March 31, and now assists in back-to-back games against the Penguins. Only Cale Makar (6) had more shots on goal than Newhook in Tuesday’s win.

Related: Avalanche’s Alex Newhook Making Big Impact In Rookie Season

Despite that drought, Newhook has had a solid season. He has 12 goals and 14 assists through 60 games, and has been getting more ice time as a result. Newhook centered the second line on Tuesday with Nazem Kadri out, and made the most of the chance. He piled up 16:30 of ice time, which was his highest total in the last nine games. He also got 1:38 on the power play.

Manson Gets First Goal With Avs

It took a little bit for Josh Manson to get comfortable, but one of the newest members of the Avalanche finally got involved with Colorado’s high-powered offense. He scored a critical third-period goal for the Avs on Tuesday, his first since getting traded to the team form the Anaheim Ducks on March 14. Tuesday’s tilt was Manson’s 10th game of the season with the Avalanche.

Josh Manson Colorado Avalanche
Josh Manson, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The goal was a big one, too. Pittsburgh had all of the momentum at the end of the second period, trimming Colorado’s lead to 3-2 behind a gritty late goal from Evan Rodrigues late in the frame. Manson silenced the crowd early in the third, pushing the lead back to two goals on a rip from the point just 1:01 into the final period. It was his first goal since March 13, which was also his last game with the Ducks.

Manson wasn’t brought in for his offense. Tuesday’s goal was just his fifth of the season, and he has just 27 career goals in 463 games. But he’s provided depth at the blue line for the Avs, which also got a boost from the return of Bowen Byram, who played his first game since Jan. 10.

The Avalanche return to action with a pair of road games this weekend. They travel to face the Winnipeg Jets on Friday before heading to Edmonton on Saturday.

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