SUNRISE, Fla.--Nathan MacKinnon finished the job for the Colorado Avalanche in overtime on Friday night against the Florida Panthers, but it was offensive production from its other players that allowed the club to leave South Florida with multiple points.
Joonas Donskoi tied a career high with three points in the contest (one goal, two assists), and Andre Burakovsky scored twice in the middle stanza before adding an assist on MacKinnon's game-winning goal at 3:03 of OT to complete a three-point night of his own, which also tied an NHL personal best.
Their play helped Colorado rally from two goals down in the second period and turn a 3-1 deficit entering the frame to a 4-4 tie leaving it. The Avs won 5-4.
"Second period starts to come around, I thought the [Nazem] Kadri line--with Donskoi, Burakovsky--those guys, and the [Pierre-Edouard] Bellemare line gave us some life. Scored some timely goals," said head coach Jared Bednar.
Video: COL@FLA: Nieto scores off nice pass from Bellemare
The Panthers had a strong opening period as they fired 17 shots on net and led 3-1 at the intermission, but Colorado put its game together in the ensuing 20 minutes. The Avs tallied their three goals in a 3:58 time frame, which started with a hard-working shift by the fourth line.
Colorado's trio of Bellemare, Matt Calvert and Matt Nieto got possession of the puck deep in the zone, and Bellemare found Nieto in the low slot and the forward fired a hard wrister past two-time Vezina Trophy-winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
"I think in all the games we've been playing, we've seen a lot of goals from the fourth line, and that is huge," Burakovsky said. "Those are really good players, just the way they work together is really good."
Just 32 seconds later, Burakovsky found twine on a highlight-worthy wrist shot from the right circle that Bobrovsky couldn't get his glove on in time.
"I've been talking and working a lot on shooting more," Burakovsky said. "In previous years, I've always been looking up, trying to find passes instead of shooting. It's something I'm trying to get rid of. I'm still a passer but also if the opportunity is there, I'm just going to shoot. I'm kind of right there and obviously I got a good release too, so it was nice to see it go in."
Video: COL@FLA: Burakovsky quickly ties it for Avalanche
The contributions from Colorado's top line entering the season were known, and the trio has lived up to its billing so far. MacKinnon has points in all seven games this season (four goals, six assists), while linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog have also had solid campaigns, posting 10 points and six points, respectively.
The team's second line however might be the unsung heroes of the squad through the first two-plus weeks of the campaign. They've created timely goals and are a major reason why the club has picked up 13 of a possible 14 points.
Donskoi scored two goals on opening night in a playoff rematch against the Calgary Flames, Kadri had a three-point first period on Monday at the Washington Capitals and Burakovsky has points in all but two games this season, registering eight total (four goals, four assists) in seven outings.
"They're doing some good things on a nightly basis, but what I liked about tonight is Donskoi was winning all the puck battles, so was Kadri. Burakovsky, he's got some confidence and swagger to his game right now," Bednar said of his second unit. "We're still encouraging him to shoot the puck because he's got a laser and that was a great shot that he made on his one goal."
All three players are in their first seasons with the Avalanche after being acquired in the offseason to add more offensive prowess to the club. So far they've done just that, and their teammates have taken notice.
"I think they're just really good hockey players that we acquired. That's a nice luxury to have, plenty of really good players, very talented players," MacKinnon said. "You saw on Burky's first goal, it was pretty. Not many guys can shoot a puck like that in the NHL. It's great to see him gaining confidence. He looked awesome out there."
The same could be said for the Avalanche, which is the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss. It 6-0-1 record is the third-best start in franchise history behind the 1985-86 Quebec Nordiques (7-0-0) and the team that won its last Stanley Cup in 2000-01 (9-0-2).