Philipp Grubauer was supposed to get a night off. Instead, he got his 16th win of the season.
The Anaheim Ducks scored four first-period goals, but Grubauer shut them down over two periods in relief goaltending, as the Colorado Avalanche persevered to score six consecutive goals for an 8-4 win on Tuesday. The victory was the fourth in a row, which is the longest winning streak of the season for the Avs.
Nazem Kadri notched two goals and two assists for the Avalanche, while Denver native Troy Terry had a goal and an assist for Anaheim. Colorado has two games left in its nine-game homestand, and they’ve gone 5-1-1 through the first seven.
Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s fourth consecutive win:
Second Line Still Sizzling
The trio of Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Brandon Saad are in the zone right now.
They have combined for seven goals and seven assists to set the tone during Colorado’s four-game winning streak. At least one of those players has scored or assisted on half of the goals the Avalanche have scored during the winning streak.
Kadri has three goals and three assists over those four games, including a pair of each on Tuesday. His first goal was an absolute rocket in the first period that tied the game at 2-2. His second came late in the second period, and tied the game at 4-4.
Burakovsky and Saad each had a goal and an assist on Tuesday. Burakovsky’s goal started the scoring, and came just 1:01 into the game. Oddly enough, Saad’s goal capped the scoring, giving Colorado eight goals in a game for the second time this season.
The eight goals were tied for the most they’ve put in all year. The first instance came in the second game of the season, when the Avalanche hammered the St. Louis Blues 8-0 for Grubauer’s first shutout of the season.
No Rest for Grubauer
On what was supposed to be a night off for Grubauer, the respite proved brief. Starter Hunter Miska lasted just 20 minutes, and Grubauer had to come in at the start of the second period with the Avalanche trailing by two goals.
Miska gave up goals on Anaheim’s first two shots of the game – both by former University of Denver standouts, Troy Terry and Danton Heinen. Terry’s goal came just 1:15 after Burakovsky opened the scoring on Anaheim’s first shot of the game. Their second was from Heinen only 2:17 later. Miska went on to give up four goals in the first period, despite facing just seven shots.
But the Ducks didn’t celebrate again. Grubauer stopped all 15 shots he faced in relief, and watched his team scored six unanswered goals. The win was Grubauer’s 16th of the season.
The backup goaltending spot has been a point of contention this season, as Miska has struggled. He has just one win in his five starts. Anaheim came into Tuesday’s game with the second-worst goals-per-game total in the NHL at 2.14 – ahead of only the hapless Buffalo Sabres (2.07). In his last five periods against Anaheim, Miska has allowed nine goals.
While Miska is the one getting shelled, not all of the fault for the shaky backup play rests on the 25-year-old’s shoulders. Pavel Francouz was expected to backup Grubauer this season, but he’s been shelved all season due to injury. Miska probably just isn’t ready for the NHL just yet. He hasn’t had a save percentage higher than .889 in any of his starts this season – and that mark came when he stopped 16 of 18 shots in his lone win, a 3-2 victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 26.
Grubauer has been electric, and has been one of the top goalies in the NHL. But he can’t play every night, and the West Division is looking to be tight all season. That begs the question as to whether Colorado will make some sort of move if Francouz is expected to miss the bulk of the rest of the season.
Rantanen Gives Miller Deja Vu
Ryan Miller has to be getting sick of Mikko Rantanen. Especially when the Avalanche forward is behind Miller’s net.
In Colorado’s last two games against the Ducks, Rantanen has scored from behind the goal line. Both were in the second period, both were on backhands, and both deflected off Miller and into the net.
Tuesday’s came midway through the second with Colorado trailing 4-2. It came after a hard-working shift for Colorado, which was started by Devon Toews fighting off three Ducks to keep the puck in the zone. He got it to Gabriel Landeskog, who weaved in on Miller and rattled off two point-blank chances that Miller stuffed.
The rebound went behind the net, and Rantanen cracked off a carbon copy of his goal from 10 days earlier. It gave Rantanen his 14th goal of the season.
The difference in this one was that Colorado won the game, and now are on their longest winning streak of the campaign.
Miller probably won’t have to worry about that happening again any time soon, as Anaheim will likely go back to starting netminder John Gibson when the teams play again on Thursday in Denver to wrap up the two-game set.
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.