Looking for a fast start, especially following Wednesday’s slow one against the Boston Bruins, the Colorado Avalanche came out ready to play on the road against the Anaheim Ducks.
Nathan MacKinnon kicked off the scoring just 53 seconds into the first period when he buried the puck from the faceoff circle on a give-and-go with linemate Alex Tanguay, and the Avs never looked back.
“This is a big game for us. We wanted to get out to a good start,” MacKinnon said. “It’s always fun to score a big goal like that early, it turned out to be the game-winner and we really locked it down I thought.”
Backup netminder Reto Berra was called upon to do the rest, a task that he set to with the kind of diligence that typifies the Swiss goalie’s work ethic.
Berra was solid between the pipes in his first start with the Avs, turning aside all 31 shots faced in the 3-0 decision.
The keeper now has back-to-back shutouts in his last two starts dating back to the 2014-15 season—a streak currently 189:24 long.
“He was good tonight. He’s been good,” head coach Patrick Roy said of his goaltender. “In training camp, he played well. [Goaltending coach] Francois [Allaire], before we left, said he was practicing really well and he was sharp.
“You get rewarded when you do that.”
The 28-year-old first saw action with the Avalanche in Wednesday’s 6-2 loss to the Bruins after coming in to relieve typical starter Semyon Varlamov in the second period.
Berra finished with five saves on five shots in 22:22 of ice time against Boston.
“The biggest thing about confidence is to have success, to have wins,” Berra said after the match. “I got my first game here and I got a win here on the road. It feels good.”
Playing with swagger, Berra continued his strong showing in California. He had a nice buffer to work with after PTO-turned-Avs forward Jack Skille found twine in the middle stanza. Skille fired a blast from high in the zone past Frederik Andersen to give Colorado 2-0 lead, one Colorado would use to keep the Ducks at bay until John Mitchell potted an empty-net marker to seal the victory.
“We were ready for them. I’m very proud of our players,” Roy said. “They showed a lot of character and they showed that they want to turn our season around after the last game and we had to come up with a big performance.”
With his goal, Mitchell became the first player in Avalanche history to tally in each of the first four games to start a season.
Rear guard Nick Holden, skating in a new pairing alongside the more offensive-minded Tyson Barrie, also contributed heavily in the victory. The 28-year-old blueliner played a team-high 22:42 and finished with assists on each of the first two tallies.
D-man Francois Beauchemin, who was acquired on the initial day of NHL free agency on July 1, skated in his first game at Honda Center since his most recent departure from the Anaheim organization.
A staple blueliner for the club, Beauchemin won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks during the 2006-07 season and played a primary role on the back end, logging heavy minutes during each of his two separates stints in Southern California.
The 35-year-old veteran currently leads all Avalanche defenseman with five points in four games—all assists—and ranks second among NHL rear guards in the same category.
Beauchemin finished the 3-0 victory with a team-high three shots (tied), two hits, five blocked shots and 21:23 of ice time—good for third on the team.
“We gave up six goals at home. That was a little bit embarrassing so we wanted to make a big statement when we came here. Have a good 60 minutes, which we did,” he said after the contest. “The guys worked hard and we got some good penalty kill. They had some chances and our goalie made the big saves.”
Colorado forward Mikhail Grigorenko made his Avs debut on Friday night after having been a healthy scratch for the club’s first three contests of the 2015-16 season. He didn’t take long to contribute to the winning effort either, as the 21-year-old Russian assisted on Jack Skille’s marker in the second period.
“I thought he was really good,” Roy said of the center. “I thought he had a really good game.”
The goal helped the Avs put the game out of reach of the Ducks, who are now 0-4-0 on the young season.
Grigorenko finished with one shot on goal and one hit in 6:19 of ice time while centering a line alongside Skille and alternate captain Cody McLeod.