On Friday night, the Colorado Avalanche arguably played their biggest game of the 2018-2019 season. Despite the late comeback that was mounted by the Arizona Coyotes, the Avalanche managed to edge them out in a shootout.
The pivotal 3-2 shootout victory not only allows the Avalanche to distance themselves even further from other teams such as the Coyotes and Minnesota Wild in the race for the final wildcard spot. It also gives the team a key tie breaker if the battle for playoff positioning ends up being that tight. With the win, the Avalanche have now won two out of three meetings against the Coyotes. So at the end of the season, if the two teams are tied in both points and regulation or overtime wins (ROWs), then the third tie breaker would go in favor of the Avalanche.
With zero scoring occurring in the opening period, the action began in the second stanza. In his first game back after missing the last nine contests due to a shoulder injury, Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog dished the puck from down low through the legs of defenseman Jason Demers and onto the stick of teammate Nathan MacKinnon. The 23-year-old then lobbed the puck over the stick of goaltender Darcy Kuemper to give his team a power play goal and a 1-0 lead.
With less than a minute remaining in the second frame, the Avalanche were back on the man advantage. Forward Colin Wilson was battling two other Coyotes players for possession in the slot area. The puck ended up on the stick of forward Derick Brassard who then launched a wrist shot through Kuemper and into the back of the net to put his team up by a pair with 34 seconds left in the period.
However, things got a little scary for Avalanche fans as the Coyotes mounted a third period comeback. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson fired a rather harmless wrist shot towards the net from about 80 feet away. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, Larsson’s shot deflected off the stick of Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie and snuck by goaltender Philipp Grubauer to cut the Avalanche’s lead in half.
With less than a minute left in the game, the Coyotes pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker and were firing shots from all angles. Ekman-Larsson fired the puck from the left faceoff circle. Although Landeskog blocked his first attempt, the rebound bounced right back to Ekman-Larsson who then unloaded a second attempt through about four bodies and Grubauer to tie the game with 51 seconds left.
With no goal being scored in the five-minute overtime period, a shootout was necessary. The only goal in the shootout came from MacKinnon in round one. The back-to-back 90-point scorer skated in slowly from the left side of the ice. While making his way towards the middle, MacKinnon made more stick handles than one could count before quickly going from his forehand to the back hand and lifting the puck upstairs stick side on Kuemper.
Grubauer impressively stopped all three shooters for the Coyotes to secure the 3-2 shootout victory for the Avalanche.
With the win, the Avalanche improve their record to 36-29-13 and their point total to 85. Their lead for the final wildcard spot has now been increased to three points as the Coyotes’ record is now 37-33-8 and their point total is 82. The Minnesota Wild are just one point behind the Coyotes with 81 and a 36-33-9 record.
The Avalanche will face yet another though opponent on Monday night as they are on the road to take on the St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche have yet to defeat the Blues this season. The first two meetings resulted in overtime loses by scores of 3-2 and 4-3 while the third and most recent meeting was a 3-0 shutout loss.