Nazem Kadri might be hitting his stride.
The second-line center had a goal and two assists on Friday, leading the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. He now has goals in back-to-back games, and three in his last five contests.
His goal midway through the third gave the Avalanche a 3-0 lead, but wound up being the game-winner. The Coyotes were coming off consecutive wins in which they overcame three-goal deficits. They tried to do it again, scoring a pair of goals 43 seconds apart in the game’s final 96 seconds.
Kadri also assisted on the first two goals. Mikko Rantanen hammered home a rebound early in the second period to open the scoring, and Kadri set up Andre Burakovsky on a rush to make it 2-0 just six minutes into the third.
The Avalanche had been bitten by the lack of depth scoring, and combining Kadri with Brandon Saad and Joonas Donskoi has helped bolster it. Over the past five games, that trio has combined for four goals and five assists. Kadri has accounted for three of the goals.
The assist that set up Burakovsky’s goal was a beauty, and he needed it, as well. It was his fourth of the season, but Burakovsky hadn’t scored a goal in eight games, and didn’t have a point in the last seven.
Miska Notches First Career Win
Hunter Miska just needed a start against the team that gave him his first chance.
In just his third career start, Miska stopped 16 shots for his first career victory, and he was less than two minutes away from his first career shutout.
Miska’s first NHL appearance came two seasons ago for the Coyotes, entering in relief for Darcy Kuemper in a 6-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Miska made eight saves on nine shots in that one.
He barely had to work much harder against his former team on Friday – until the end. The Coyotes struggled to get any pressure on, and had just 10 shots on goal through the first two periods. But Phil Kessel killed the shutout with 96 seconds left in regulation, and Drake Caggiula scored just 43 seconds later to make it 3-2.
Arizona emptied the net, but Miska made a couple more saves in the final minute to preserve the win.
Miska started two games for Colorado earlier this season, but failed to win either – losing one in overtime. Both of those starts were tied entering the third period. Colorado only led 1-0 entering the final frame on Friday, but Miska finally got some help. Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri both scored in the third, giving Miska some breathing room.
Miska has played well in both of his starts, but hadn’t played in almost a month. His last start was a 4-3 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 31. He also spent some time away from the team after contracting COVID-19.
The Avalanche needed the victory as much as Miska did. Colorado was coming off back-to-back losses where they were shut out 3-0 by Marc-Andre Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights, and then hammered 6-2 by the Minnesota Wild.
Rantanen Ends Goal Drought
Rantanen has been a streaky player this season. And the Avs are hoping he started another hot streak.
After an early six-game goalscoring streak, Rantanen hadn’t scored in Colorado’s last seven games. He scored the first one for Colorado on Friday. It was the second time this season he scored the first goal of the game.
Rantanen was still finding the scoresheet while the goals were missing, tallying four assists in the last four games, but Colorado needs him to score goals – especially when they’ve been hard to come by. During Rantanen’s seven-game goalless drought, Colorado won just three games and was shut out twice.
It was also a power-play goal – and Colorado had been on a bad streak with the man advantage, too. Colorado endured a stretch where they didn’t score on 20 power-play opportunities in a row. Now they’ve scored a power-play goal in each of the last two games.
Rantanen leads the team with eight goals on the season, and his goal on Friday was assisted by Nathan MacKinnon – who leads the team with 15 helpers on the season.
The Avalanche play against the Coyotes again Saturday night in Arizona.
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.