The Colorado Avalanche lost the battle against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, but they’re just hoping they haven’t lost the war.
Superstar Nathan MacKinnon didn’t come out for the third period, and didn’t return due to a lower-body injury. There was no word after the game as to how much time he is expected to miss, and it was unclear when the injury occurred.
Jonas Brodin slapped home the game-winner just 18 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 Minnesota victory. Colorado didn’t touch the puck in the extra session.
MacKinnon leads the Avalanche in scoring with 14 points, but had just two goals on the campaign. The center hadn’t scored a goal in his last 422:23 of ice time, but notched at least one assist in each of the last five games – including Sunday, where he had a pair of helpers.
MacKinnon has been pretty durable throughout his career. He missed only nine games out of a possible 316 over the previous four seasons, and played in all 10 contests this season.
Colorado has already been decimated by injuries. The Avalanche dressed only 19 on Sunday due to cap restrictions. Because of the short bench, Colorado had only 10 forwards available for the final period and overtime. Defenseman Erik Johnson was injured last night, and the Avs were already without Devon Toews, Matt Calvert, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Pavel Francouz.
MacKinnon’s pair of assists in the first couple of periods gave him 12 for the season. Colorado got goals from Joonas Donskoi and Brandon Saad – who both scored for the second night in a row. Cale Makar also added his first goal of the season in the loss.
Makar Finally Gets On the Board
While the status of MacKinnon was the major concern, Makar may be elevating his play at just the right time.
Makar got his first goal of the season early in the second period, tying the game at 2-2. Makar had attempted 48 shots through the first nine games of the season getting 20 on target. It was his 21st shot of the season that finally lit the lamp.
And the goal was a beauty. Makar took a pass from MacKinnon at the point, fake a shot while moving into the high slot and leaving Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway in the dust. He snapped a wrister across his body and through traffic over Wild goaltender Cam Talbot’s stick-side shoulder.
The goal tied him with Vancouver Canucks’ star Quinn Hughes for most points by a defenseman in the NHL this season. Both of them have 11 points, and both have only one goal.
Last season, Hughes was a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which Makar won. The Calder Trophy is given annually to the league’s top rookie. Makar had 12 goals last season year.
Makar led the Avs with a whopping 28:09 of ice time, and his three shots on goal were second on the team behind Jacob MacDonald’s four. It was MacDonald’s first game of the season, as he replaced Johnson in the lineup.
Donskoi & Saad Keeping Avs Afloat
Donskoi and Saad have been the catalysts for the Colorado offense lately. Donskoi scored the first goal of the game for Colorado, and Saad scored the one that gave Colorado a 3-2 lead in the third before Rask tied it up late for the Wild.
Saad and Donskoi both scored a goal in both games in Minnesota, and they both have five goals apiece on the season. They’re tied for second on the team, behind Mikko Rantanen’s seven tallies. Colorado has scored 11 goals in the last three games, and Donskoi and Saad have scored or assisted on six of them.
After a slow start, Saad has been sharp lately with seven points in his last four games. He scored a goal in both games in Minnesota this weekend and now has five on the season. Donskoi has three goals in his last four games, and three of his five goals on the season have come on the road.
Donskoi had been something of a good luck charm for the Avalanche before Sunday’s overtime loss. Entering Sunday’s game, Colorado was 4-0 in games where Donskoi scored a goal, and had outscored their opponents 23-6 in those games.
The scenery will change outside for Colorado’s next two games, but not on the ice. The Avalanche play the Wild again in their next two contests, but they’ll come back to Denver for a pair of games on Tuesday and Thursday.
Lifelong storyteller and experienced hockey reporter that has covered everything from major juniors to the NHL. Worked for various newspapers across Minnesota and North Dakota, and now covering the Colorado Avalanche for THW.