For the second time in 10 days, the Colorado Avalanche traveled to T-Mobile Arena to play the Vegas Golden Knights in the second of back-to-back games. In what was at times a sloppy game for both clubs, but the Avalanche prevailed on the back of very solid goaltending two timely third-period goals.
“Vegas is going to come out hard in their building, they always do, they have a fast team,” Avalanche Coach Jared Bednar said after the game. “We didn’t manage the puck properly. We had way too many neutral-zone turnovers trying to force passes.”
Colorado and Vegas normally play strong defensive games. The two teams have the lowest combined head-to-head goals, dating back to last season, with an average of 4.1 goals per game between them. The Golden Knights outshot the Avalanche 36-21 in the contest.
With tonight;’s victory, and dating back to the start of last season, the Avalanche are 12-0-4 in the second game of back-to-back contests. While both teams were on the second half of a back-to-back — Colorado coming off one of their most impressive wins of the season against the Winnipeg Jets, Vegas coming off a disappointing loss to the Arizona Coyotes — the Avalanche seem to thrive in high-pressure situations. The compressed schedule for the rest of this season (due to both COVID and the Winter Olympics) will see Colorado play four more back-to-back contests, including the final two games of the season against two division rivals, the Minnesota Wild and the Nashville Predators.
In addition to success playing two days in a row, Colorado has also shown an ability to come from behind. The Avalanche were down 2-1 heading into the third period. They scored two goals in the span of 26 seconds, with the second tally one of the prettiest of the year as defenseman Cale Makar gained the zone and made a perfect pass to Nathan MacKinnon, who unleashed a one-timer, and beat Vegas goaltender Laurent Brossoit on his stick side.
MacKinnon had only the one shot on goal, which was in stark contrast to his effort the night before in Colorado’s 6-3 come-from-behind win against the Jets. He had 14 SOG in that contest, the most by a player in an NHL game since November 2015 and a franchise record.
It was the 16th time this year the Avalanche won a game when trailing an opponent, with 11 of those comebacks coming in the second or third period.
Kuemper Continues to Impress
Darcy Kuemper, Colorado’s goaltender, came up big again, stopping 34 of 36 shots faced, including some big saves early to allow his team time to come back. Kuemper’s save percent (SV%) is .919 and his goals-against average (GAA) is 2.47. He has three shutouts this season, tied for second-most in his career with 39 games still to be played.
Since the start of this calendar year, Kuemper has a record of 13-1-2 with all three shutouts coming in that span. Both of those marks are best in the league over that stretch. His .932 SV% and 2.13 GAA in 2022 are 13th best. He and backup netminder Pavel Francouz are making a strong case for Joe Sakic, Colorado’s executive vice president and general manager, not to be in the market for a goaltender before the NHL trade deadline on March 21.
Dude, There’s Makar
Makar continues to make a strong case for his bid to win the Norris Trophy this year. He extended his point streak to eight games, the longest this season by an NHL defenseman.
Related: 2021-22 Norris Trophy Tracker
With another assist tonight, he now has 12 over the streak. He leads all NHL defensemen in both goals (18) and total points (56).
Game Notes and Up Next
The Golden Knights put up a very strong effort considering the large number of key players not dressed for tonight’s game. Missing from the Vegas lineup were number one goaltender Robin Lehner, forwards Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Nolan Patrick, and defenseman Alec Martinez. These are frontline players whose absence was no doubt felt.
Bednar once again had captain Gabriel Landeskog skating on the second line with Nazem Kadri and Valeri Nichushkin, promoting Andre Burakovsky to the top line with MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. It’s an effort to ignite Burakovsky’s scoring, and it seems to be working. The 27-year-old left wing has a goal in each of the last two contests.
Colorado is back in action Tuesday night when they welcome the New York Islanders to Ball Arena in Denver.