The Colorado Avalanche have been one of the hottest teams in hockey during the month of March, but the Vegas Golden Knights wanted to make sure people knew they were still the best team in the West Division.
One night after getting rocked 5-1, the Golden Knights shut down Colorado’s stars and took things over for a 3-2 overtime victory on Saturday afternoon. Max Pacioretty had the game-winning goal for Vegas – his fourth overtime winner this season.
The win kept Vegas in first place in the West Division, a point ahead of the Avalanche. Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s overtime thriller:
Donskoi Keeps Rolling
Joonas Donskoi has always been a streaky player. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar is trying to squeeze as much as he can out of the forward’s current hot streak.
After scoring the game’s first goal just 76 seconds in, Bednar started getting Donskoi some more time on the ice. The coach played Donskoi with the top line midway through the first period, and the forward played with the top power-play unit in the first period, too.
Donskoi’s becoming both a starter and a finisher for the Avalanche. Five of his 12 goals have been the first of the game for the Avalanche, and five of his other goals have come in the third period. He scored the first goal of the game in both games against Vegas this weekend, too.
The dozen goals are second on the team behind Rantanen’s 19. Like Rantanen – who has scored 11 of his goals in March – Donskoi has done a heavy amount of his damage lately. Over the last seven games, Donskoi has six goals and five assists.
Vegas Erases Colorado’s Top Line
After Colorado took a 2-1 lead after the first period, Vegas went physical and it erased the Avalanche’s top line.
The combination of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog entered Saturday’s contest sizzling – notching 16 goals and 24 assists over the last eight games. Yes, the last eight games.
On Saturday, those three combined for twice as many penalty minutes as shots on goal. Rantanen – who leads Colorado with 19 goals and had an eight-game point streak – didn’t even register a shot on target. It was the first time he’d been held without a shot since Jan. 18, 2020, meaning Saturday’s effort snapped a streak of 42 consecutive games with a shot on goal.
MacKinnon had an assist to give him nine assists in the last six games, but Landeskog saw his seven-game point streak snapped in the loss.
Saturday marked only the second time in March that one of those three players didn’t record a point in a game. The other game was Colorado’s 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks on March 5. MacKinnon missed that game due to an upper-body injury.
As a team, Colorado managed just 24 shots on goal, which was tied for their fewest shots in a game this season. They also had 24 shots in the third game of the season, a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings all the way back on Jan. 19. It also marked the only time in March the Avs recorded fewer than 32 shots on goal.
The Avalanche goalscorers have been stealing a lot of the spotlight this month, but the defensemen have been a major part of that, too. Saturday was no different.
Avs blueliners accounted for a goal, an assist and eight shots on goal on Saturday. Neither of Colorado’s goals in the loss happen without a great play by a defenseman.
Samuel Girard has been Colorado’s best and most consistent defenseman all season. He leads all Avs defensemen in scoring with five goals and 26 points – and his 21st assist on the season set up Colorado’s first goal on Saturday. Only MacKinnon (26) has more assists on the squad.
MacKinnon assisted on Colorado’s second goal, which was scored by defenseman Devon Toews. It was the sixth goal of the campaign for Toews, which is tied for the most he’s scored in a season in his young career. It’s also the most goals scored by any Avalanche defenseman this season.
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Toews isn’t the only one in the middle of a career year. Girard is in the midst of the best season of career, and already set a career-high for goals in a season with his fifth of the campaign coming in Colorado’s 8-4 shelling of the Anaheim Ducks on March 16.
Colorado returns to action on Monday at home against the Anaheim Ducks, and will host the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.
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.