In Nathan MacKinnon’s six-game injury absence, the Avalanche is highly thankful for Nazem Kadri and Cale Makar.
The Avs’ second-line center and top defenseman have both been on a scoring spree that even MacKinnon — a perennial NHL All-Star and three-time Hart Trophy finalist — would be proud of.
In the Avs’ 5-2 victory over the visiting Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, Kadri had a goal and an assist for his fifth consecutive multi-point game to extend his career-long points streak to 10 games. Makar produced his sixth goal and eighth point in four games and was in the position to become just the second NHL defenseman to produce multiple-goal games in three consecutive contests.
Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey did just that from Feb. 14-19, 1986. Makar came one goal shy against the Ducks of matching the feat.
The Ball Arena crowd of 16,343 saw the Avalanche score five consecutive goals in extending its NHL-best winning streak to six games and collectively celebrate the 36 goals the team has scored in MacKinnon’s absence (6.0 average).
“I think that’s just everybody realizing that we’re missing one of the game’s best players, and everybody else is stepping up,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said. “Having said that, we’re really trying to focus on our game without the puck, in our tracking and our reloads, gaps in the neutral zone or defensive game. That’s kind of where our offense starts, shutting other teams down in the D-zone, arriving fast, coming out of our zone with speed. When we do that, play fast, we draw some penalties, and our power play has been a lot better the last six or seven games.
“Having said that, we obviously miss Nate and we’re excited to have him back here, hopefully soon.”
The Avs will also celebrate coach Jared Bednar, who won his 194th game behind the Colorado bench to become the club’s winningest coach. He was tied with Bob Hartley, who led the Avs to the Stanley Cup in 2001.
“It’s an honor to be coaching this team,” Bednar said postgame. “I’m grateful. I’m thankful to be here, especially after the first year. For me, it’s satisfying but it’s not the reason why I came here — to move up a list. I enjoy coaching the team and when our team plays well and we get rewarded for our hard work.”
Kadri, who has six goals and 15 assists in his 10-game points streak, assisted on Makar’s goal to tie the game 1-1 late in the first period. Kadri scored a third-period power-play goal to give Colorado a 4-1 lead.
“Naz is playing crazy well right now,” Landeskog said.
Anaheim opened the scoring 4:58 into the game, capitalizing on goalie Darcy Kuemper’s broken skate blade — the second such incident in consecutive games. Kuemper was unable to regain his feet and Sonny Milano flipped the puck over him.
Milano also scored the game’s final goal at 16:07 of the third period. Kuemper never returned from his skate issue and backup Jonas Johansson played the final 44:17. Johansson was working on a relief shutout before Milano beat him on the 20th shot he faced.
Landeskog said Johansson was given the game puck.
“Means a lot,” Johansson said after his fourth appearance with the Avalanche this season and 12th since he was acquired from Buffalo in March. “We got a great group of guys in there and I love to be a part of it. Just feels good.”
The Avs dominated the second period, scoring twice while outshooting the Ducks 17-5. Rookie forward Alex Newhook redirected a slap shot from defenseman Devon Toews at 2:49 and forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel beat goalie John Gibson with a wrist shot at 10:25.
Footnotes. Kurtis MacDermid made his NHL debut at forward, playing left wing on the fourth line. MacDermid, who fought Nicolas Deslauriers early in the first period, played his previous 123 career NHL as a defenseman. … In addition to MacKinnon, defenseman Bo Byram and forward Martin Kaut participated in the optional morning skate in red non-contact jerseys.
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