MONTREAL — Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog scored in his return from injury as Colorado beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 Thursday night.
Ryan Graves and Matt Calvert also scored for the Avalanche (18-8-2), who have won five straight. Backup goaltender Pavel Francouz made 39 saves.
Brendan Gallagher and Nick Cousins scored for the Canadiens (12-11-6), who have dropped nine of their last 10 games.
Cayden Primeau stopped 32-of-35 shots in his NHL debut. The 20-year-old son of former NHL player Keith Primeau played in the first of a back-to-back for Montreal, with Carey Price set to face the New York Rangers Friday night.
The Canadiens were down a forward 90 seconds into the game when Jesperi Kotkaniemi fell awkwardly in the corner on a hit by Nikita Zadorov. The 19-year-old centre did not return.
The Avalanche hardly looked like they were playing the second game of a back-to-back as they beat Primeau twice on 14 shots in the first period.
The league’s top-ranked offence took a 1-0 lead at 6:13 when Graves tucked a rebound past Primeau, who failed to freeze the puck in the crease on Calvert’s initial shot. Rookie defenceman Cale Makar started the play by driving hard to the net past Shea Weber down the right side.
Another rush down the right wing led to Colorado’s second goal, this time by Landeskog. The Avalanche captain, back in the lineup after missing 16 games with a lower-body injury, blew past Jeff Petry and beat Primeau blocker side at 12:57.
Calvert made it 3-0 for the visitors with a short-handed tally on a 2-on-1 at 8:06 of the second following a turnover in the neutral zone.
Quality chances for Montreal were limited through two periods but Gallagher got the Canadiens on the board in typical fashion for the winger, a goal from the crease at 17:42 of the second after going hard to the net.
Cousins gave the home side new life with a power-play goal off the post and in 1:23 into the third against the league’s stingiest third-period team.
Montreal pressed for the equalizer with time winding down.
Francouz came up big for the Avalanche with six minutes to play by stopping Artturi Lehkonen’s one-timer with the shaft of his stick. Francouz then denied Gallagher on a wraparound two minutes later.
The Avalanche backup also stopped a flurry of shots in the game’s final seconds.
Canadiens defenceman Otto Leskinen made his NHL debut. … Avs winger Andre Burakovsky (upper-body injury) returned to the lineup after missing three games. … Nazem Kadri (lower-body injury) did not play.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2019.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press