The Arizona Coyotes are one of the more defensively-stingy teams in the league, and they thrive with a pack mentality in their own zone. The Coyotes close out space quickly in their own end, forcing the opposing team to make a mistake when maneuvering the puck.
To get extra space to work with is a luxury against the desert dogs, and the Colorado Avalanche took advantage when the team got it in a matchup between two clubs battling for the same playoff spot.
Colorado scored two power-play goals and picked up an important extra point with a 3-2 shootout victory against Arizona on Friday night at Pepsi Center. The Avs now have a three-point edge on the Coyotes for the second and final Western Conference wild-card position, with both clubs having four games remaining in their regular seasons.
"You see that Arizona got a point tonight. You can't let your foot off the gas," said Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie. "We got four huge games against some good teams too. St. Louis [on Monday] will be tough in their barn, so nothing changes for us. Same kind of Game 7 mentality going into it."
The Coyotes entered the night with the best penalty kill in the league with an 85.6-percent success rate and had only allowed two power-play goals in their last 11 outings, including cancelling seven straight man disadvantages.
Colorado used the extra attacker to its benefit in the second period, where it notched both of its goals. Nathan MacKinnon scored his 39th marker of the season--tying his career-high set last season--after receiving a cross pass in the low slot from Gabriel Landeskog at 13:37, and Derick Brassard roofed a wrist shot to push the Avalanche's lead to 2-0 with 34 seconds left before the intermission.
Video: ARI@COL: Landeskog feeds MacKinnon for PPG
"They have a good penalty kill so be ready for pressure. [The Coyotes are] first in the league on the penalty kill, so [our team] did a great job on the power play," MacKinnon said. "I think we were 2-for-4 or something, so that is solid. It's nice to have Landy back on the goal line, he makes really good plays and kind of settles things down."
The Avs' approach to having the extra man was simple: use the bit of extra space available to move the puck quickly and find open teammates before the Coyotes' PK unit could suffocate chances.
"We know they like to pressure and kind of jump on it when you make mistakes, and I think we did a nice job with that," Barrie said. "We weren't overcomplicating, looking for nice plays. It was just get it, move it, shoot it. Get to the net and try and get some rebounds, and Gabe made a great play to Nate on the back door and then we got another big one. It's nice for our power play to get a couple there."
Video: ARI@COL: Brassard rips wrister on power play
The Avalanche is now 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) on the power play over its last four games and has been remarkably successful versus the stingy Coyotes this season. In the three-game series, Colorado scored four man-up markers, converting on 30.8 percent of their chances (4-for-13).
In a tight contest on Friday that saw only 38 combined shots through the first two periods, the power play allowed the Avs' offense get into a flow when crisp passes and open lanes were hard to come by for much of the night.
"I clicked through the scoring chances for the first and second periods for both teams, and it was a very low event," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "No great, quality chances from either team really. We gained a little momentum in the second from our power play. We obviously score a couple big goals, but the scoring chances we gave up through 40 minutes was very limited for us and very limited for them."
The win extends Colorado's point streak to seven games (6-0-1) and continues its success when it scores on two or more power plays in an outing. The Avalanche is now 11-0-0 when tallying multiple times with the man advantage this season.
LANDESKOG CONTRIBUTES IN RETURN: Gabriel Landeskog returned to game action after missing the past three weeks and nine contests with an upper-body injury. He was expected to miss four-to-six weeks with the ailment after getting hurt on March 7 at the Dallas Stars.
"It's tough because you want to be with the guys and be there with the team, especially this time of the year," Landeskog said after morning skate. "It's one thing to miss November and December, that would suck as well, but when it's this time of the year and every game matters as much as it does right now, it's been tough watching. At the same time, the boys have been doing great. It's been fun to watch."
He played 22:15 and had an assist, two shots, four hits, two takeaways, three blocked shots and won 4-of-7 faceoffs (57 percent) while on a line with Carl Soderberg and Colin Wilson. The helper extended Landeskog's career-high point total to 70 this season (33 goals, 37 assists).
GRUBAUER STRONG LATE: Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 21 saves in the third period and overtime and finished with 42 overall. It was his seventh consecutive start, extending his career-long stretch.
For Grubauer, it was the fifth game this season that he had faced and saved 40 or more pucks, and he has a 3-1-1 record in those outings when he does. He also stopped all three shots he faced from Arizona in the shootout.
During his seven straight starts, the netminder sports a 6-0-1 mark, 1.55 goals-against average and .957 save percentage.
MIKKO INJURY UPDATE: Mikko Rantanen missed his fourth consecutive game with an upper-body injury, and head coach Jared Bednar had nothing new to report on the right wing following morning skate.
"Same status. I don't have anything new on him at this point," Bednar said pregame.
Rantanen has yet to skate since getting hurt on March 21 at the Dallas Stars. The forward leads the team in assists (56-tied), is second in points (87) and third in goals (31), all of which are career highs.
MORE POSTGAME NOTES: The Avs wrapped up their three-game season series against the Coyotes, finishing 2-1-0 against Arizona.
Colorado is 6-0-1 in its last seven games and 13-5-2 over its last 20 contests.
The Avalanche extended its home winning streak to a season-long four games, its longest stretch of home wins since Dec. 29, 2017 to Feb. 14, 2018 (10 games). The Avs are 9-2-1 over its last 12 outings at Pepsi Center.
Colorado has scored first in eight consecutive contests (6-1-1) and is 28-5-6 when notching the first goal of the game this season.
The Avalanche played its third shootout of the season (2-1) and is 2-0 in tiebreakers at home in 2018-19. Philipp Grubauer is now 5-5 in shootouts in his career with a .667 save percentage (26 saves on 39 attempts).
Alexander Kerfoot had an assist to extend his point streak to four games (one goal, four assists), matching his career high done twice before. He previously accomplished the feat in first four contests of this season (Oct. 4-11), when he recorded a goal and four assists.