The Colorado Avalanche hosted the Carolina Hurricanes at Ball Arena in Denver last night in a matchup that pitted one of the NHL’ s most potent offenses against the league’s stingiest defense. The Avalanche, who were averaging 3.82 goals per game heading into the contest (third-best in the NHL), proved the better club, tallying seven goals against the Hurricanes, who were allowing only 2.37 goals per game, which was best in the league. The final score was 7-4.
The high-scoring contest was in sharp contrast to the last meeting between these two teams. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 2-0 a month ago in Raleigh, with both of Carolina’s goals coming late in the third period. Last night’s game was a fast-paced, wide-open, goal-line-to-goal-line affair, with seemingly little time spent in the neutral zone. The Avalanche outshot the Hurricanes 37-33.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
MacKinnon Finishing Strong
Colorado’s first-line center Nathan MacKinnon had two more goals in the contest, bringing his season total to 31. His nine goals in the month of April is tied for best in the NHL with Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues. It was MacKinnon’s fifth multi-point game in his last six starts.
MacKinnon’s second goal came on a knee-buckling pirouette move he put on defenseman Jaccob Slavin of the Hurricanes. Creating space to work with, MacKinnon threw a backhand at the net, which ricocheted off the stick of Slavin’s defensive partner Tony DeAngelo, and went in. It was the seventh goal for Colorado, putting the game out of reach for Carolina.
MacKinnon, who has missed time this season due to a variety of injuries, has played only 58 games. His 1.42 points per game average over that span is fourth-best in the league.
Avalanche Record Pace Continues
With the win, Colorado’s record stands at 55-14-6 with 116 points. One more win (or two overtime losses) in the team’s final seven games will tie them with the 2000-01 Stanley Cup championship Avalanche team for the all-time franchise record.
The 116 points move the Avalanche into a tie for 24th place for the best regular-season record in league history. They have now won nine straight games, and they are 13-1-1 in their last 15. They’ve done this with two of their leading scorers—captain Gabriel Landeskog, and second-line center Nazem Kadri—sidelined by injuries. Should the team go 5-2-0 down the stretch, not an unreasonable projection given their current level of play, they would finish the season with 126 points, which would be the sixth-best total of all time.
Related: 5 Reasons the Avalanche Are Still Favorites to Win the Stanley Cup
The Florida Panthers, who have also won nine straight, are hot on Colorado’s heels with 112 points. The race for the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team with the best regular-season record, will likely go down to the last week of April.
Sensational Rookie Debut
Nine days ago Ben Meyers was lamenting his Minnesota Golden Gophers’ loss to their in-state rival, the Minnesota State Mavericks, in the Frozen Four. Tonight he was scoring his first NHL goal, skating on the fourth line of the league-leading Avalanche. Meyers used a nifty backhand to clean up a loose puck in front of Carolina goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Wearing number 59. the 23-year-old Meyers signed a two-year contract with the Avalanche. The former Gopher’s team captain scored 41 points in 34 games for Minnesota this year. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the best collegiate player, an honor bestowed on Cale Makar in 2019. Meyers also skated on the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team in Beijing, scoring two goals and two assists.
“It’s fun out there, so obviously a great experience, I’m just trying take it all in, but I’m having fun so far,” Meyers said during an interview between the first and second period on Altitude TV.
Meyer’s was on the ice for 9:30. He recorded two shots on goal.
With the win over the Hurricanes, Colorado has at least one point against every team in the NHL this season with one exception: the Washington Capitals. The Avalanche seek to rectify this when they welcome the Capitals to Denver on Monday night.