The Avs seem to encounter few obstacles more mystifying than a Coyotes team with nothing to lose.
They will see Arizona two more times before the end of March. They’ll have those two chances to more convincingly crack the code of a supposedly easy opponent that has refused to give Colorado any cakewalks.
The latest in that dizzying saga was the Avalanche’s 3-2 overtime win Saturday at Ball Arena. It took a Cale Makar sudden-death goal to snap a three-game losing streak against the Coyotes dating back to February 2022.
“There’s no guaranteed wins. You’re going to have to go win them all, and that’s a good hockey team,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “I know they are where they are in their rebuild, and whatever. But they are a dangerous team. They’ve beaten some good teams. … You have to play for keeps against them.”
Makar usually starts overtime for the Avalanche, but he came off the bench this time while Devon Toews, J.T. Compher and Valeri Nichushkin handled the first shift. Bednar said he liked the way Compher’s line (with Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen) had matched up against Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz line for the last 40 minutes of regulation. So with the Coyotes sending out Schmaltz and Clayton Keller to start the extra period, “no purpose in shifting it come overtime,” Bednar said.
It paid off. Compher won the opening faceoff, and Colorado possessed the puck for the entire shift before Makar entered the fray with Nathan MacKinnon.
“I like Cale playing with Nate,” Bednar added. “I think they like playing together when it comes to overtime.”
Colorado (36-22-6) outshot Arizona 18-0 in a stunning third period. It was the second time in Avalanche history that they didn’t allow a shot on goal for an entire period. The first was Feb. 16, 2015, according to NHL Stats … against Arizona.
In Saturday’s lopsided performance, the Coyotes’ final SOG this time came with 2:20 remaining in the second period. There were 23 minutes, 58 seconds played after that.
“Defending starts in the offensive zone,” Bednar said.
MacKinnon extended his home point streak to 16 games and home goal streak to nine games, the latter setting a new franchise record. Makar’s overtime goal was the fifth of his career, surpassing Tyson Barrie for most in franchise history by a defenseman. It was his 18th game-winning goal, tying Barrie.
“Nate kind of dropped that back to me, and I felt like I could pick up enough speed,” Makar said. “I don’t know if they were trying to change or what, but I just saw their guy on the side that I was curling up on go to the inside. And then Mikko (Rantanen) obviously just stood there and made him go around. Overall, that was just a collective three-guy effort there.”
The Avalanche claimed an early lead when Brad Hunt scooped a puck out of the defensive zone to the opposite end of the ice, where Denis Malgin collected it along the boards and put on a startling burst of speed. He backhanded it into the net to finish another stellar individual effort — his sixth goal in the last 13 games. Alex Newhook was credited with a secondary assist for winning the defensive-zone faceoff.
But it became clear early that Arizona would not come and go as submissively as San Jose earlier in the week. After forcing Alexandar Georgiev to make two saves in the first 15 seconds, the Coyotes waited more than six minutes for their next shot on goal. The Avs made a poorly timed line change, and Bo Byram tripped in the defensive zone. Jack McBain tied it.
Keller gave them the lead. During a breakout late in the first period, Byram, Toews, MacKinnon and Rantanen all got caught puck-watching Barrett Hayton, while Keller snuck in the backdoor unmarked.
After intermission, it was all Avalanche, even if they only emerged from regulation with a tie game to show for it. “We started checking,” Bednar said. “Doing things right. First period, we did not.”
Special teams provided the catalyst. MacKinnon scored the tying goal on a power play, with help from Rantanen screening Connor Ingram. Then the Avs killed their 16th consecutive penalty.
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