SEATTLE — After Pavel Francouz returned from a recent injury, he marveled at the fresh perspective he gained from a different view of the ice, watching from above.
If he appreciated that, then he flat-out cherished the unique vantage point he had Saturday night of a former three-year teammate: staring directly across the rink at Philipp Grubauer in the opposite net.
“He came from Jussi Parkkila coaching, so I feel like we’re doing a lot of stuff the same way,” Francouz told The Post, referring to the Avalanche’s goaltending coach. “So it’s always fun to watch goalies kind of the same size, same style.”
Grubauer saved 26 shots for the Kraken and Francouz saved 26 for the Avalanche in a playoff-caliber showdown between the top team in the Pacific division and the hottest team in the Central. So naturally it required a shootout pitting the old tandem against each other, with Francouz coming out on top for a 2-1 Avalanche win.
Nathan MacKinnon scored five-hole on Grubauer, and Francouz denied all three Seattle attempts to give the Avs (25-17-3) their fifth consecutive win and a perfect road trip without star defenseman Cale Makar. Francouz is 4-0 in his shootout career. He has never allowed a shootout goal in 12 attempts.
“To get six points on the road, that’s huge,” veteran Erik Johnson said.
The Kraken had been knocking on the door in the the third period. John Hayden couldn’t finish a 2-on-1, shanking on an empty net, and Jamie Oleksiak clanked a post. Sudden-death, 3-on-3 overtime without the skilled Makar was especially a chore; Johnson was involved in a long shift toward the end of the five-minute timer in which the Avs were stuck on their heels.
Can they breathe easier after a two-point night and six-point road stand?
“I don’t know about breathing easier, with the extra minutes out there,” Johnson joked. “But it’s nice to go on a little run here. We needed to do it. It’s three more games until the break, and then hopefully we’re sitting where we want to be.”
The Avalanche and Kraken played 7:50 of the first period on special teams, but neither team broke through. Shots started with a 7-0 Seattle advantage, then Colorado reeled off 10 unanswered. It was a game of runs, if it can be called that without scoring.
The Avs have killed 15 of 16 penalties in the last six games. Ironically, the most compelling scoring chance of the period for either side came immediately after a power play. As Yanni Gourde exited the box and returned the Kraken to even strength, he ended up with a convenient breakaway but missed the target entirely.
Then the game cleaned up. The entire second period was played at 5-on-5, with a fun pace and competitive forechecking from both sides — but very little action other than a quick exchange of goals. Alex Newhook cleaned up a third-chance rebound after shots by Jacob MacDonald and Artturi Lehkonen, but Ryan Donato answered 58 seconds later.
“It was a good hockey game,” coach Jared Bednar said. “Really good.”
As it all transpired, Bednar engineered in-game line rearrangements. Newhook started the game at center then moved to left wing alongside J.T. Compher and Mikko Rantanen. Valeri Nichushkin played more on the top MacKinnon line, and they combined for 13 shots.
Makar was a last-second scratch after participating in pregame line rushes. He tried warming up and “didn’t feel like he was ready to go,” Bednar said. He was a game-time decision because Avs didn’t have morning skate for the second portion of a back-to-back; pregame was Makar’s chance to test if he felt good enough to play. He watched from the press box.
“We’ll find out” if the rest pays off, Bednar said. “Too early to tell. But the bright side of it is it’s not long-term. It’s not something that’s going to hamper him for a long time. He’s played a ton of hockey for us to be able to get the results we are (getting) without him, and for him to be able to take a break here while he heals up, I feel like he earned this.”
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