The Avalanche’s new top-line has never played a game together before tonight. But the trio of Center Nathan MacKinnon, wingers Joonas Donskoi and Mikko Rantanen, who was back after missing 16 games, combined for 11 points in Colorado’s 7-3 route of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“getting Mikko back is helping us a lot,” Donskoi said. “He’s an amazing player and he was making some great plays tonight. We were able to find the back of the net, It felt good.”
The Avalanche (16-8-2) scored seven unanswered goals after giving up a shorthanded goal to the Blackhawks early in the first period. Colorado’s second-line center Nazem Kadri scored the first two, giving the Avalanche an extra weapon on another line, something that was missing from their lineup in previous years, especially when dealing with as many injuries as they are now.
“When Mikko and Gabe (Landeskog) went down last year it was a little tougher without having that great centerman,” MacKinnon said. “We have a good 1-2 punch I think, that trade obviously worked out well for both teams.”
Kadri’s two goals came 1:25 apart, giving the Avalanche a lead and all the momentum, leading to a goal from MacKinnon to make it 3-1. MacKinnon later added another assist to finish the game with three points.
Tonight’s performance pushes his active point streak to seven games, compiling six goals, 10 assists, for 16 points in the process.
“When we were without Mikko and Landy down the stretch (last year), Nate, for lack of a better term, put the team on his back,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “He was the leader on and off the ice, he found a way to contribute and make his linemates better. He’s doing the same thing right now.”
The final Avalanche player to record multiple points was defenseman Sam Girard. The 21-year-old recorded two assists and was two-thirds away from finishing with a Gordie Howe hat-trick. Girard dropped the gloves in the first period with Blackhawks forward Alex Debrincat. The pair both weigh under 170 lbs.
“I loved it, he caught him with a nice one too,” Bednar said. “I was like ‘whose fighting’ because when the whistle went I was following the play. But good for those two guys, they’re two competitive guys, similar size and G was defending him hard and there was a little frustration there I’m sure.”
“He’s a fiery kid. I didn’t expect it for sure. He’s a very intense guy and It’s cool to see,” MacKinnon added.
MacKinnon continues to climb up the NHL points ranking. After his four-point performance last night and three more tonight, MacKinnon has surpassed both Capitals defenseman John Carlson and Bruins forward David Pastrnak. His 42 points ranks fourth in the NHL behind the Oilers duo of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid and Boston’s Brad Marchand. MacKinnon’s 1.62 points-per-game is also ranked fourth in the league.
Rantanen picks up right where he left off. Speaking of points-per-game, Rantanen sits fifth in the NHL, one spot below MacKinnon, at 1.6. After recorded 12 points in nine games in October, Rantanen added four points tonight, bringing him to 16 in 10 games. He is on pace for over 100 points in 66 games, assuming he stays healthy the rest of the way.
Colorado has the NHL’s best offense. Despite missing Rantanen for 16 games, and still missing Landeskog, Andre Burakovsky, Matt Calvert and Colin Wilson from it’s opening night forward group, Colorado ranks first in the NHL with 3.73 goals-per-game. The 97 goals the Avs have scored are four back of Washington but the Capitals have played two more games then the Avalanche. Colorado has 16 goals during its recent three-game winning streak.
Stat of the Night
MacKinnon finishes the month of November with 25 points—the highest-scoring month for a player in Avalanche history. He played the entire month without Landeskog and every single game before tonight without Rantanen.