The rust was there, as expected. But the Colorado Avalanche saw some pretty familiar things in their return to action, too.
Nathan MacKinnon continued his point streak, and Andre Burakovsky scored a pair of goals to set the tone for a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. It was Colorado’s first game in eight days following a shutdown due to COVID-19, and the victory clinched a playoff spot for the Avs.
Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s return to action:
Depth Scoring Steps Up
The game was the first in more than a week, but not all of the usual suspects were there for the Avalanche. The win came without leading goal scorer Mikko Rantanen, who was still in the midst of COVID protocol.
Burakovsky slid up to the top line, and the top unit didn’t miss a beat. He scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, and knocked in what proved to be the game-winner midway through the third period.
The pair gave him 14 on the season, which is the third-most in a campaign during his seven-year career. His career-high is 20 goals, which he scored last season – his first with the Avalanche.
While Burakovsky was helping the top line stay in form, the other forwards were doing their part, too. Brandon Saad scored Colorado’s first goal of the game, giving him goals in three straight contests. Fourth-line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare capped off the win with an empty-netter.
It was Burakovsky’s second two-goal game of the season. He also netted a pair in Colorado’s 9-3 drubbing of the Arizona Coyotes on March 31. Entering Monday’s tilt, however, he only had one point in the last four games – a first-period goal in the 4-1 Avs win at the Anaheim Ducks on April 11.
Dubnyk Stuffs Blues Again
Devan Dubnyk has split time between two teams this season, starting the campaign with the San Jose Sharks before coming to the Avalanche around the trade deadline. Regardless of uniform, the Blues have had trouble with the veteran goaltender.
Dubnyk stopped 25 shots in the win, which was just the fifth of the year for him. However, four of those have come against St. Louis. Overall, Dubnyk’s record in 2020-21 is now just 5-9-3. But against the Blues, he is 4-3. The only other team he’s beaten this year is the Anaheim Ducks.
He also won Colorado’s last game, a 4-3 win over the Blues on April 14, and he was pretty sharp on Thursday. Jaden Schwartz scored both goals for St. Louis, and his first was a great shot to open the game’s scoring with a Blues power-play goal in the first period.
But Dubnyk shut down everything until over the final 16-plus minutes of the first and the entire second period. Schwartz’s second goal didn’t come until there was a little more than six minutes to play in the third. After that first power-play goal, Dubnyk was the driving force behind the Avalanche killing off the final four Blues power plays the rest of the night.
MacKinnon Still Sizzling
The eight-day layoff didn’t bother MacKinnon at all.
Colorado’s Hart Trophy contender extended his point streak to 12 games, assisting on all three of Colorado’s final three goals.
MacKinnon was largely responsible for Burakovsky’s third-period tally. The left-wing forced Blues defenseman Marco Scandella to turn the puck over, and MacKinnon fired it to Gabriel Landeskog, who found Burakovsky for the game-winner.
MacKinnon has 7 goals and 14 assists during the 12-game stretch, and now has had 17 goals and 39 assists on the season. He’s in top 10 in the NHL in both assists and points.
The victory clinched a playoff spot for Colorado for the fourth consecutive season, and lifted the Avs record against St. Louis to 5-1 on the season. The lone loss was a 4-1 setback on opening night.
Colorado takes on the Blues again on Saturday afternoon. The two teams play their final game of the season against each other on Monday. Both games are in St. Louis.
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.