Top 10 Moments From the Avalanche’s Record-Setting Month

A team can’t have a better start to the year than the Colorado Avalanche had in January 2022. They went 15-0-1, their lone loss coming in overtime on Jan. 11, against the Nashville Predators. The Avalanche won the five games preceding that contest and all ten that followed. The 15 wins ties the NHL record — the Pittsburgh Penguins did it in 2013, and the Boston Bruins did it in 2014 — for most wins in a single month. (From “Extraordinary Avalanche defeats Buffalo Sabres to tie NHL record for victories in any month,” Denver Post, 1/30/22)

The Avalanche entered the month with a record of 17-8-2, and their 36 points had them in fourth place in the Central Division, sixth place in the Western Conference, and 13th in the league. They exited the month 32-8-3 with 68 points, which put them atop both the division and conference and tied them with the Florida Panthers for the league lead, though the Avalanche had a better winning percentage.

Colorado Avalanche Gabriel Landeskog Samuel Girard Nathan MacKinnon
Colorado Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog celebrates with Samuel Girard and Nathan MacKinnon after scoring the winning goal. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Here, in reverse order, are the top 10 moments from the Avalanche’s historic month:

10. Aube-Kubel’s Two Goal Game

When the Avalanche hosted the Seattle Kraken for their first visit to Ball Arena, forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel got the scoring started with a goal just 5:50 into the first period. Then the Avalanche sat back on their heels and allowed the Kraken to score three unanswered tallies to take a 3-1 lead. It was Aube-Kubel who led the chargeback, with the Avalanche’s second goal of the game late in the second period. The 25-year-old native of Slave Lake, Alberta, has proven to be a valuable mid-season acquisition for the Avalanche.

9. Kadri’s Shootout Winner vs. the Coyotes

The Arizona Coyotes, despite being in last place in the Central Division, have played the Avalanche tough most of this season. It started with the first meeting between the two teams on Jan. 14. The Avalanche squandered an early two-goal lead, surrendering three unanswered goals to the Coyotes.

Forward Andre Burakovsky notched the game tying-goal early in the third period to force overtime. After a scoreless extra frame, goalies for both teams — Pavel Francouz for the Avalanche and Ivan Prosvetov for the Coyotes — had stopped all five shots before Nazem Kadri picked up the puck at center ice. He skated in, put it on his backhand to get Prosvetov to commit, and quickly switched to his forehand before sliding the game-winner home. (More on Kadri’s incredible season below.)

8. O’Connor’s Game Winner Against the Ducks

In the first game of the month, the Avalanche surrendered a goal early in the first period and another early in the second, forcing them to play from behind in what would become a recurring theme for the month.

With goals from defenseman Devon Toews and right winger Gabriel Landeskog to tie the game, Nathan MacKinnon showed incredible patience in shoveling a soft pass to a charging Logan O’Connor, who buried the puck top shelf on the near side of goaltender John Gibson. The goal came at 18:49 in the third period and would prove to be the game-winner.

7. Kadri, the League’s No. 1 Star

Kadri, who is having the best season of his career by far, continued his hot play through the month. He finished the final week of January (the week ending Jan. 30) with three goals and five assists. All three of the goals were game-winning goals, and he was named the league’s number one star of the week.

Kadri’s stat line for the season through Jan. 31 (40 games) was 18 goals, 41 assists, and 59 total points. Kadri’s best season before this year was 61 points in 82 games in 2016-17. He was, very deservedly, voted by fans onto the Central Division All-Star roster.

6. Landeskog’s Hat Trick Against the Jets

In the only real blowout of the month, the Avalanche put a hurt on the Winnipeg Jets, defeating their division rivals 7-1 at Ball Arena in Denver. Landeskog, who is having a career year, had three goals in the game for his fourth career hat trick.

Related: 3 Avalanche Forwards Having Career-Best Years

Landeskog had two goals in the second period and one in the third. He was joined in the offensive onslaught by Bowen Byram, Kadri, MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen.

5. Three-Goal Comeback Against the Maple Leafs

After the Avalanche fell into a 3-0 and then 4-1 hole to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team showed incredible resiliency to tie the game at four goals apiece and force overtime. On a give and go from Kadri, Toews skated in and beat Maple Leafs netminder Jack Campbell through the five-hole.

“They had one or two bodies who were a little tired,” Toews said after the game. “We were trying to keep possession with the guys we had on the ice. They cheated a little bit, and I was able to jump down.”

The game, which had a playoff atmosphere, was a statement early in the month for the kind of play the Avalanche were to exhibit in the coming weeks.

4. Landeskog’s Game Tying Goal Against the Bruins

On Jan. 26, it looked as if the Avalanche’s luck had finally run out. A very good and hot Bruins team took a commanding 3-1 lead into the third period and looked to have the game in hand. Defenseman Samuel Girard cut the lead to one goal midway through the final frame, and then the Avalanche started to pour it on.

Gabriel Landeskog Colorado Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With less than a minute left in the contest and the Avalanche’s net empty, forward Valeri Nichushkin hustled to keep the puck in the offensive zone. He slid it to Kadri, who made a perfect cross-ice pass to Landeskog, just below the right faceoff circle. With 37 seconds on the clock, the team captain made a tough angle shot to beat Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark.

In another contest that had the atmosphere of a playoff game, the crowd erupted. Cale Makar would go on to win the game with a goal in overtime.

3. Kuemper and Francouz Hit Their Stride

Before January, Avalanche goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz — battling injuries, equipment malfunctions, and COVID — had a combined and pedestrian .890 save percentage (SV%) and a lackluster goals-against average (GAA) of 3.37. The duo finished January with a combined SV% of .930 and a GAA of 2.19. So what changed?

Head coach Jared Bednar said the following to Mosher, Lombardi, and Kane, Denver’s Altitude Radio’s morning show, when asked the same question: “Speaking of Kuemper, it took a little bit of time for him to get used to his new teammates, his environment, and now we’re starting to see him play the way we expected him to be able to play when Joe [Sakic, the Avalanche’s executive vice president, and general manager] went out and acquired him. And Frankie [Francouz], is him just getting healthy. He’s hard a long hard road back to being able to play.”

Whatever the reason, stellar goaltending was at the heart of the Avalanche’s historic month.

2. Makar’s Overtime Winner against the Blackhawks

So much has already been said about Makar’s overtime winner against the Chicago Blackhawks in only the second game of the month that we’ll let a picture, or in this case, a video, be worth a thousand words.

1. Extending the Home Win Streak to 18 Games

While the Avalanche home winning streak finally came to an end Tuesday night with a shootout loss to the Coyotes, the 18 consecutive victories on home ice set a franchise record and were fifth-best in the history of the NHL. Before the overtime loss to the Coyotes, the Avalanche had not lost at home since Nov. 3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, also an overtime loss.

The last outright loss on home ice was Oct. 26 versus the Vegas Golden Knights. To put that in perspective, that was before the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus was ever identified and reported. It was before Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Martin Luther King Day. In fact, the last time the Avalanche lost at home before last night, eight members of the team were still making plans to be in Beijing for the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Even with Tuesday’s shootout loss to Arizona, the Avalanche have recorded at least one point in each of their last 17 games, a franchise record.

The team is back in action on Feb. 10, after the All-Star break, when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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