The Colorado Avalanche (6-1-2) takes on the Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1-1) on Wednesday at Pepsi Center in a battle of two of the NHL's top teams. Colorado is tied for second in the league with 14 points while Tampa Bay is tied for second in the Eastern Conference with 11.
The matchup is the first of two during the 2018-19 campaign for the non-conference foes, with each team hosting one contest in its own barn. After taking seven of a possible eight points on a four-game road trip, the Avs return home for their first skate in the Mile High City since Oct. 13 against the Calgary Flames. The Bolts are on the third of a five-game road swing, all against Western-Conference opponents.
Colorado owns a 17-11-5 all-time record against the Lightning since the 1995-96 season, including a 10-4-3 mark at home. The Avs have collected points in seven of the last nine home matchups against Tampa Bay, including a six-game overall win streak from Jan. 5, 2007-Feb. 22, 2015.
Last Time Out
The Avalanche finished its four-game Eastern Conference trip with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. With the victory, Colorado swept the two-game season series with the Flyers. Mikko Rantanen opened the scoring for the visitors with a power-play goal just 3:23 into the contest, with assists from linemates Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. The only marker of the second period came from the stick of Matt Nieto on a one-timer off a pass from Matt Calvert. Landeskog reached the twine on a breakaway goal in the third period, and Rantanen sealed the scoring with an empty-net marker. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov earned his fourth win of the season, making saves on 37-of-38 shots. Rantanen (two goals) and MacKinnon (one assist) each extended their season-opening point streaks to nine games, becoming the first set of teammates to register point streaks of that length to open the season in franchise history.
The Lightning recorded a 6-3 victory at the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, earning at least a point for the fifth consecutive contest. Tampa Bay set an NHL record with 33 shots in the second period and finished with a franchise-best 55 total shots on goal. Brayden Point led the club with three points (one goal, two assists) while Ryan Callahan, Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli, Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov each tallied one goal. Louis Dominque made saves on 33-of-36 shots and earned his second win of the season.
Last Time They Met
Tampa Bay prevailed in a 6-5 offensive showcase on Dec. 16, 2017 in the two clubs' most recent outing. All 11 goals were scored after the first period, with Tampa Bay jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the second frame on tallies from Kucherov, Anton Stralman, Hedman and Gourde. Landeskog got the Avs on the scoreboard with his first marker of the game late in the second stanza before Stralman answered with his second goal of the night. Landeskog completed the hat trick with two markers in the third period, followed by the first of two goals from MacKinnon to make it a 5-4 game halfway through the final period. Mikhail Sergachev scored what proved to be the game-winner for the visitors, and the Lightning took home the win in regulation. Peter Budaj made 32 saves for Tampa Bay while Jonathan Bernier stopped 25 shots for Colorado.
What To Watch
Wednesday's clash will see two of the top penalty-killing units in the league square off. The Avs rank second in the NHL, killing penalties at a 90.5-percent clip with the man disadvantage, while the Lightning penalty kill tops the league with a 96.6-percent success rate. The Bolts have scored more goals on the PK (two) than they have given up (one) in 29 short-handed opportunities. The NHL record for a single-season PK percentage is owned by the 2011-12 New Jersey Devils, who successfully killed off 89.6 percent of the penalties they took.
Colorado is one of six teams (also Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia, Toronto, Winnipeg) in the league with at least two defensemen who have five or more assists so far in the 2018-19 campaign. Alternate captain Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie have each registered five helpers through nine games and share the lead in points (five) among Avs blueliners. Johnson set his career best in assists with 30 in 2013-14, while Barrie reached his career high in helpers with 43 last season.
Players To Watch
Colorado: Goaltender Semyon Varlamov
Semyon Varlamov ranks in the top five of goaltenders in goals-against average (1.64, fifth), save percentage (.953, fifth) and wins (four, first-tied) through six starts this season. The Samara, Russia, native has faced at least 30 shots in five of those six contests and has allowed two or fewer goals five times. The 30-year-old's present 4-0-2 record is his longest stretch without a regulation loss to open a season in his career.
Tampa Bay: Center Yanni Gourde
After being held off the scorer's sheet in the Lightning's season opener on Oct. 6, the 26-year-old Gourde has registered points in each of his last six games (four goals, four assists) and leads the club with three goals on the power play. Last season, the Saint-Narcisse, Quebec, native reached career bests in goals (25), assists (39) and points (64) while playing in all 82 regular-season games.
Wednesday's Avs contest against the Lightning is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. MT and will be televised nationally on NBCSN. The game will also be streamed live on the NBC Sports app and NHL.tv. The radio broadcast can be heard on Altitude Sports Radio 92.5 FM in the Denver area and online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.