COLUMBUS, Ohio--Playing one of the best defensive teams in the league on Saturday, the Colorado Avalanche was prepared for a tightly-contested matchup.
The chances in the game were limited when the Avs--who are averaging 3.66 goals per game, the most in the NHL--took on the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have held their opposition to 2.41 goals per game, second best in the league.
Columbus struck first at Nationwide Arena with a power-play goal midway through the second period, but Colorado displayed its maturity and scored twice in the third period to come back and earn its third straight victory with a 2-1 win against the Blue Jackets.
"If I am not mistaken, it is the first time we have come back in the third period, which seems strange, but maybe it's because we lead a lot of games in the third period, I don't know," said Avs head coach Jared Bednar. "But, to be able to comeback there and sort of dig in in what can be a frustrating game. We are used to getting up and going and creating a lot of chances and they were hard to come by tonight, but I am proud of the guys for sticking with it and finding a way in the third period to get the job done."
Video: Coach Jared Bednar after the Avs' comeback win at CBJ
Coming into the contest, the Blue Jackets were riding a 10-game point streak (9-0-1) and their goaltender, Elvis Merzlikins, had posted back-to-back shutouts.
Despite hitting a couple posts in the early parts of the game and working to find twine by firing as many shots on net as it could, Colorado remained composed and continued to work to create some offense.
"They frustrate. You've hit about four or five crossbars and the way they are playing too, just kind of flipping it out in the neutral zone. It's easy to just kind of get frustrated and everybody get off on their own page, but we stuck with it," said Gabriel Landeskog. "We stuck with it and stuck together and kept grinding and kept trying to stick to our game plan as well as we could and kept shooting trying to solve this guy and it paid off."
Video: COL@CBJ: Kadri snaps home tying goal
Nazem Kadri tied the game at 11:45 of the third period with an unassisted tally before Nathan MacKinnon gave the Avalanche the lead with 4:34 remaining in regulation with a one-timer from the left point.
Landeskog assisted on MacKinnon's marker, his 250th career helper, to tie Matt Duchene for seventh place in Avalanche history (since 1995-96). It also moved him into a tie for 11th in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history.
Video: COL@CBJ: MacKinnon blasts one-timer past Merzlikins
"That was probably the most character win and the best win we have had all season," said Kadri. "It is not easy to play against a team that plays defensively, has a hot goaltender and doesn't give you much offensively. We just stuck with it and won that game in the last 10 minutes."
Colorado played a strong defensive game as well, going 4-for-5 on the penalty kill and getting a 31-save performance from goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer is now 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .963 save percentage in his last three outings.
"You have to be able to make plays and capitalize on some of your chances, but if you don't defend the right way you are not going to win in this league and if you don't get the goaltending you are not going to win in this league," said Bednar. "We have been working on that all year and we still can improve in a lot of areas, but the defending details are very important.
"I think our guys are understanding that and they will more so down the stretch as we play games like this because you have to be able to check and keep the puck out of your net. We did that well enough tonight to give ourselves a chance to capitalize on a couple of opportunities. So it's a big, huge two points for us."
The Avalanche wrapped up its two-game season series against the Blue Jackets, finishing 2-0-0 to sweep Columbus for the first time since 2013-14.
Video: Philipp Grubauer after the Avs' 2-1 win in Columbus
"I think we did a really good job defending, we gave up a little bit, but nothing too crazy," said Grubauer. "I can't even remember the last time we had a 2-1 game, so that is what we need going forward, that is what we need in the playoffs. Great start, finish it off tomorrow."
Colorado finishes its five-game road trip and its ninth back-to-back set of the year at the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.
MORE AVALANCHE NOTES
Colorado is 3-1-0 on its current five-game road trip and is 15-5-3 against the Eastern Conference this season.
The Avs have won six of their last seven games (6-1-0) and are now 6-3-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets this season.
Nathan MacKinnon notched his fourth game-winning goal of the season and the 39th of his career, surpassing Peter Forsberg to take sole possession of fifth place on the franchise's all-time list for game-winners.
The Avalanche's 17 road wins (17-9-2) are tied for second in the league behind only the Washington Capitals (20).