They don’t all have to be pretty. The Colorado Avalanche beat the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 on Friday, grinding out a win in another tight game.
Jonas Johansson got his first career shutout and Mikko Rantanen scored his 23rd goal of the season to move into a tie for second in the race for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. He’s tied with Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid. Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs leads the NHL with 28 goals.
Here’s three takeaways from Colorado’s victory:
Johansson Getting Comfy
Every start Johansson has made for the Avalanche has gotten progressively better. Since arriving to Denver after a mid-March trade from the Buffalo Sabres, Johansson has made three starts. The Avalanche have gotten points from each one.
Johansson’s shutout on Friday was impressive in its workmanlike fashion. He stopped 28 shots, including 12 in a tight second period. No crazy, spectacular saves were needed, as the Avalanche defense rebounded from the 8-3 drubbing at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.
Johansson’s first start was forgettable, as he gave up four goals, but the Avalanche got a point in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on March 23. But he bounced back with a victory over the St. Louis Blues on April 2, stopping 25 shots as the Avalanche won 3-2.
Before coming to the Avalanche, Johansson had just 11 starts in his career, and only one win while playing for the hapless Sabres. He’s got twice that in his last two starts for the Avalanche.
It was the sixth shutout victory of the season for Colorado, three of which have come after a loss. Johansson’s 28 saves were the most by an Avalanche goaltender in a shutout this season. Philipp Grubauer has the other five shutouts — which leads the NHL.
Nichushkin Feels At Home in Anaheim
Valeri Nichushkin didn’t have a point in Colorado’s last three games, but he is always happy to see Anaheim. The Avalanche forward scored the first goal of the game on Friday. It was his first goal since netting one on March 29 in a 5-2 victory over the Ducks. Nichushkin now has nine goals on the season, and four have come against Anaheim.
The goal was also Nichushkin’s fourth in his last five games against Anaheim. He also had two goals against the Ducks — including the game-winner early in the third period — in a 3-2 victory on March 5.
The success against the Ducks is something new for Nichushkin. Entering this season, he hadn’t scored a goal and had just two assists against Anaheim in 13 career games. He has seven points in seven games this season.
The second-period goal was also the first goal of Nichushkin’s career scored in the month of April. He was coming off of a sizzling March, having scored six goals and seven assists in Colorado’s 17 games last month. He managed just two goals and two assists through the first 18 games of the season.
Colorado Continues Third Period Dominance
For Colorado, it’s turning into a 40-minute game. The Avalanche moved to an impressive 21-0-1 this season when leading after two periods.
The Avalanche held a tenuous 1-0 lead entering the third on Friday, but the defense shut things down. Johansson had to make just eight saves over the final 20 minutes to lock down the win. Rantanen’s empty-netter with 33 seconds left sealed the victory.
Of the seven games this season against Anaheim, three have been decided in overtime, and two have been decided by two goals. An empty-netter was scored in both of the two-goal tilts.
The lone blemish on Colorado’s record came entering the third period came on March 23, when the Avalanche lost 5-4 to Arizona in a shootout in Johansson’s first start for Colorado after being traded. The Avalanche have trailed entering the third period just six times this season, but they’ve lost all six. They’re 6-3-3 when tied entering the final frame.
Colorado will face Anaheim again on Sunday, during the final meeting of the regular season for the 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.