Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the Colorado Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen being put together on a line, and it has led to 112 goals scored by the three forwards in 84 games.
The trio struck again on Saturday at the Minnesota Wild, as Gabriel Landeskog tallied with 41.1 seconds remaining to cut the team's deficit to 3-2. The Avs went back down to the Wild end seconds after the center-ice faceoff following the goal, but they couldn't find twine again and lost the second half of a back-to-back at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
"They did a nice job and got one back for us," said head coach Jared Bednar of the Avalanche scoring soon after the Wild had tallied into an empty net during a 6-on-4. "It was a tough loss for us because I thought our guys deserved a little bit better."
In the first of consecutive-night contests on Friday, the Colorado trio combined for three markers and 10 points in a 6-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Versus a division rival to close out a stretch of seven games in 12 days, the top group had seven shots on goal to help the Avs finish with a 32-28 edge in the category. The squad also had 12 more shot attempts (66-54) in the game than Minnesota.
"I thought we had pretty good legs tonight," Landeskog said of the team postgame. "Mentally, you're a little tired at this point, but you're also very excited to be a part of this team. Obviously winning cures everything, and we've been doing a lot of that. We felt good going into today."
The first game that Landeskog's line played together was on Oct. 28, 2017 against the Chicago Blackhawks in Denver. The Avalanche was coming off a 7-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights the previous day, but the new line led the way with a bounce-back, 6-3 win against the Hawks. The threesome combined for seven points, with MacKinnon and Rantanen each scoring twice.
The three players went on to compile 88 goals and 225 points in the 72 games from that outing on and helped the club reach the postseason for the first time since 2014. The forwards have almost exclusively played and practiced with each other ever since, except for an eight-game stretch in February when MacKinnon missed time with an upper-body injury.
In total, Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen have registered 280 points with 112 goals and 168 assists in the last 12 months. MacKinnon's 47 goals since last Oct. 28 are tied for the most in the league with the Washington Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin.
The Avs forwards entered Saturday with a combined 53 points to begin the 2018-19 season, the most of any three teammates in the NHL.
Landeskog's tally against the Wild was his 10th of the season and sets a new Avalanche record (since 1995) for goals in the month of October. Rantanen's assist on the marker matched Colorado's record for assists (16) and points (21) in the month, previously done by Joe Sakic in 1996.
Rantanen leads the league in scoring with 21 points, while MacKinnon is second with 18 (nine goals and nine assists) and Landeskog tied for fourth with 16 (10 goals and six assists).
The team is also at the top of the standings after 12 games, as the Avalanche is tied for first in the NHL with the Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs with a 7-3-2 record and 16 points.
BARBERIO BACK IN: Mark Barberio was back in the Avalanche lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past eight games, and it didn't take long for the defenseman to make an impact.
On his second shift of the game, Barberio scored his first goal of the season to give Colorado a 1-0 lead at 5:54.
His shot beat goaltender Devan Dubnyk between the pads, as the puck snuck through traffic after Vladislav Kamenev won a faceoff back to Barberio at the right circle. Kamenev picked up an assist on the play for his first career NHL point.
"I just wanted to get the puck to the net with some traffic," Barberio said of the goal. "Get the puck on net, good things happen, and it just so happened to go in."
The Montreal, Quebec, native finished the outing with five shot attempts in 15:38 of ice time. He replaced Patrik Nemeth on the backend and was paired with Nikita Zadorov to start the contest.
BACK-TO-BACK: Colorado wrapped up its first back-to-back of the season with the loss at the Wild. The Avalanche defeated the Ottawa Senators 6-3 on Friday at Pepsi Center in the first half of the set.
The Avs will skate in 11 consecutive-day outings this season and will play a home game before competing on the road three times (also Dec. 21-22, March 23-24). The team also played 11 back-to-backs last season.
Colorado is in a stretch where it will play four back-to-back sets in a 34-day span.
MILESTONE MINNESOTA MEETING: Saturday's game marked the 100th all-time game between the Avalanche and Wild in the regular season.
Colorado leads the series against its Central-Division rival with a 47-40-13 overall mark.
The Avalanche's loss in St. Paul ended a four-game winning streak versus the Wild, which was the club's longest in the regular season against its former Northwest-Division foe since 2005-06. Colorado outscored Minnesota 23-5 during that stretch, including winning 4-1 in the first outing of the season series on opening night on Oct. 4 in Denver.
The clubs have also played 20 times in three playoff series since the Wild entered the NHL as an expansion team in 2000, with each winning 10 games.
JOST HURT: Forward Tyson Jost missed his first game of the season after suffering a head injury the previous night against the Ottawa Senators. He wasn't able to finish the contest.
Gabriel Bourque, who was scratched versus Ottawa, returned to the lineup in Jost's absence and played on a line with Marko Dano and Vladislav Kamenev.