The Colorado Avalanche finally got the band back together. The music sounded a little better than it had the last three games. The Avs got three key players – Mikko Rantanen, Philipp Grubauer and Joonas Donskoi – back in the lineup, and all three contributed in a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Friday.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Avalanche, their longest of the season. Here are three takeaways from Friday’s win:
Grubauer Gets His Groove Back
The Sharks were the best team for Grubauer to play in his first game start since April 12. The Avalanche goaltender has dominated the Sharks, stopping all 21 shots he faced to pick up his sixth shutout of the season – and third shutout against San Jose. The six shutouts are tied with New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov for the most in the NHL.
Grubauer has rolled the Sharks this season. Friday’s effort made him 4-1 against San Jose this season, including the three shutouts. His goals-against average against the Sharks is 1.60 this season.
Colorado desperately needed Grubauer’s return. The Avs had lost three in a row, giving up a total of 14 goals in those three losses. After Friday’s stingy victory, Grubauer moved into a tie for the lead in the NHL in goals-against average (1.94) with Carolina Hurricanes netminder Alex Nedeljkovic.
Grubauer’s last start was a 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on April 12. He was rested a couple of games before landing on the COVID-19 protocol list. He has arguably been the most valuable player this season for the Avalanche, and is a legitimate Vezina Trophy contender.
Rantanen Rolls Early
The goals didn’t take long to return with Mikko Rantanen back in the lineup. The difference was he just wasn’t the one scoring them – at least not right away.
Rantanen scored a goal and added two assists in the victory. He assisted on both goals in the first period, helping the Avalanche set up a 2-0 lead through the first 20 minutes en route to the win. It was his first game back after missing four straight due to COVID-19 protocol.
Both of the first-period goals came on the power play, and both came from great plays by Cale Makar. Rantanen’s first assist came when Gabriel Landeskog tipped in a seeking shot from Makar. The second goal came on a similar pass to Makar, who didn’t need any help, flipping his sixth goal of the season. Donskoi also assisted on the goal.
Despite the absence, Rantanen has now scored in the last seven games he’s played in. He has six goals and six assists over that span. Rantanen’s goal on Friday was an empty-netter, capping off the win. Rantanen has 27 goals and 28 assists on the season, and his 56 points are second on the team behind Nathan MacKinnon’s 61.
Streaks End for MacKinnon
A couple of pretty impressive streaks by MacKinnon ended on Friday. One those streaks wasn’t a little one, either. MacKinnon’s streak of 263 consecutive games with a shot on goal came to a close, as his only shot attempt didn’t make it to the target.
The last time MacKinnon was held without a shot on goal was Oct. 13, 2017. He had just six shifts and 4:29 of ice time in that game. It was MacKinnon’s 569th game of his career, and just the 18th time he was held without a shot on goal. The NHL record for consecutive games with a shot on goal is 360 by Ray Bourque.
MacKinnon’s season-long point streak ended at 15 games. He racked up 9 goals and 17 assists during the streak, which was the longest in the NHL this season. But it was almost even longer. The streak started after MacKinnon was held off the scoresheet in Colorado’s 5-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights back on March 25. That game ended a seven-game point streak where MacKinnon piled up five goals and eight assists.
MacKinnon has gone more than one game without a point only once this season. That happened back in February when the Avalanche lost back-to-back games against Vegas and the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 22 and 24. Colorado takes on San Jose again tonight in the second game of four straight between the two teams.
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.