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Sparks Ignite In Avs Top Line

The Avalanche defeated the Blackhawks 6-3 on Saturday night

by Callie Parmele / ColoradoAvalanche.com

It doesn't always matter how deep you fall, what matters is how high you can bounce back.

The Colorado Avalanche rebounded from Friday's disappointing loss to Vegas in a big way by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 at Pepsi Center on Saturday.

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar mixed up his forward combination throughout his lines, most notably by inserting Gabriel Landeskog to the left side of center Nathan MacKinnon and right wing Mikko Rantanen.

The adjustment must have been the catalyst he was looking for because MacKinnon and Rantanen each scored twice in the first 23 minutes of the matchup.

"I think MacK and Mikko both needed a little spark, and it certainly worked tonight," Bednar said after the game. "You know that's sometimes why you juggle things around a little bit if it isn't working, just to maybe catch lighting in a bottle, which I think is what we did tonight. That line was really good."

Rantanen and MacKinnon have been playing together all season, but Landeskog was a new addition to the top line.

"Gabe, you know what you're getting with him every night," MacKinnon said after the win. "He's playing the same way. He's playing a physical, fast game, and he has a ton of skill as well. Me and him don't always play together, but when we do I think the results speak for themselves. We always seem to have good numbers, and the team seems to get some wins. Obviously, Mikko benefits as well. We had some fun tonight."

Fun was most definitely had. The line combined for seven points (four goals, three assists) and scored the first four markers of the contest.

Rantanen got the Avs on the board first when he found twine 3:24 into the contest after MacKinnon fed him a pass off the end boards. Later in the first period, MacKinnon scored a goal of his own after Alexander Kerfoot gave him the puck.

"You don't normally get 3-on-2's like that. You mostly get those in practice," MacKinnon said. "Kerfoot [could tell] that I really wanted that. I just saw some room blocker side and ripped it, and it managed to go in."

Video: Nathan MacKinnon on the Avs' bounce-back win

The line continued its scoring streak when the Blackhawks were assessed a double-minor penalty at the end of the first, and Rantanen registered his second power-play goal of the season.

"It was great," the Finnish forward said. "I think we had some chemistry there. We were working their D down low, and that's what we want to do. I think it was me and Nate's best game of 5-on-5, and that's what we want to do now."

In addition to the five-on-five play, the line stepped up on the penalty kill.

"They wanted to make sure we got off on a great foot and they led us to a victory tonight," Bednar said of the top line. "They had big parts to do with our special teams. Power play steps up, PK was perfect and I thought [Jonathan] Bernier had a really good night in goal. When you add all that up it turns into a fun hockey game for us and a big bounce-back game for our team"

The Avs held the Blackhawks scoreless on five power-play opportunities to improve to 15-for-16 on the penalty kill at Pepsi Center, the fifth-best home penalty kill in the NHL.

Colorado is also 4-1-0 in the Mile High City this year, the third-best home record in the Western Conference.

"We have to take the home ice advantage. We know how to play here," Rantanen said about playing at the Pepsi Center. "The fans are coming out here, so we have to play for them too. I think we have done [well] so far and now we just have to keep playing like that."

After falling 7-0 at the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday, the bounce back win against the Blackhawks is an example of the Avalanche's resiliency to the adverse situation.

"We don't want to fall under .500. We're 6-5, we're building," MacKinnon said after Saturday's game. "We have some guys hurt, which is tough for us. It is unfortunate that those guys are going down, but we got to step up. We had some meetings today. We shuffled the lines, and we got a spark."

Video: Jared Bednar on the Avs' response vs. Hawks

GRIMALDI MAKES AVS SEASON DEBUT

After playing with the San Antonio Rampage in the American Hockey League on Friday night, forward Rocco Grimaldi received a call letting him know that he would be with the Avalanche on Saturday night.

"I was excited to get the call and just wanted to come in and help the team get two points," he said after the game. "Obviously, our game down in San Antonio has been great in the first month of the season. Winning a lot of hockey games and finding ways to win, which is nice. I just wanted to come up and contribute any way that I can."

He, along with Andrew Agozzino, was recalled from San Antonio after Gabriel Bourque and Colin Wilson were placed on injured reserve after Colorado's contest against Vegas. With a goal and an assist on Saturday night, Grimaldi is making sure that he has a chance to stay with the NHL club for the foreseeable future.

"We will probably send a guy back, and we might need to keep a couple," head coach Jared Bednar said of what his lineup might look like in the Avs' next game on Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. "A guy like Grimaldi, I liked his game tonight. He did a nice job, gave us some energy. If he is on a line come Monday, that's a sign that he will stay."

BARRIE REGISTERS 200TH POINT

Defenseman Tyson Barrie's assist on Sven Andrighetto's marker in the second period was his 200th career point. He became the sixth blueliner in franchise history to reach the two-century mark after registering 49 goals and 151 assists through 349 games--all with the Avs.

Barrie just had his career-high six-game point streak snapped on Friday, which equaled the longest streak by a NHL rear guard in the 2017-18 campaign. During that stretch, he recorded one goal and five assists.

Through 11 contests this season, Barrie is second on the team in scoring with nine points (two goals, seven assists) and is tied for seventh amongst defensemen in the league in that category.

 

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