The first 25 minutes of the contest between the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators was as expected. A tight back-and-forth affair that featured two of the top teams in the Central Division trading goals.
It didn't stay that way as Colorado broke the game open with a historic middle frame.
The Avalanche scored six unanswered goals in the second period to run away with a 9-4 victory over the Predators on Thursday night at Pepsi Center. Seven different players found the back of the net for Colorado, which snapped a five-game losing skid (0-4-1).
"It doesn't happen too often," said Andre Burakovsky, who tied a career high with three points in the outing. "Whenever it happens, you just got to enjoy it. It was fun to see so many guys score, and that's what we need. We need everyone on this team."
Joining Burakovsky (one goal, two assists) with multi-point nights was Ryan Graves (one goal, two assists), Cale Makar (one goal, two assists), Matt Calvert (one goal, one assist), Matt Nieto (one goal, one assist) and Erik Johnson (two assists), while Joonas Donskoi and Nathan MacKinnon ended with the biggest performances of the bunch. MacKinnon had a season-high four points (one goal, three assists), and Donskoi recorded his first career hat trick with three markers.
Video: NSH@COL: Avalanche erupt for six goals in 2nd period
It all led to Colorado's largest offensive output since Dec. 9, 2007 when it also scored nine goals against the St. Louis Blues. Overall, it's tied for the team's second-most tallies in a game and marked the fifth time since the franchise moved to Denver in 1995 that the squad has recorded nine or more goals in an outing.
"We've been waiting for it," Burakovsky said. "We haven't scored as many goals in the last couple games, but we definitely bounced back. I think everyone was good today. Everyone was on their toes. Everyone was doing the dirty work, putting the work in. Just got to clean up that and work and the good things happen, and we proved that today."
The Avs were ahead 2-1 after the first 20 minutes, but the Predators took the lead early in the following period. Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene scored in the opening five minutes of the frame to grab the advantage on the scoreboard, a spot where the Avs might have started to hang their heads in past outings.
Not this time.
Colorado rallied with six goals in exactly eight minutes to set a franchise record for the fastest six tallies by the club (previously 8:06 set by the Quebec Nordiques on Feb. 22, 1981, an 11-7 win at Washington).
"That is what I'm proud. That shows the character of this team," Donskoi said. "It would have been easy, we had a couple losses before and we could have hanged our heads and say, 'here we go again,' but we handled it really well. We just kept going. We knew we were on top of them, even in the first period and the start of the second. They got a couple unfortunate goals, but we just kept going and we were able to take the game."
Donskoi said he didn't think he's ever been in a game that had such a crazy period with an avalanche of goals in quick succession.
"It was pretty insane," he said. "We were playing good. I think we were playing good in the first too. It took a while to find the back of the net, but after we got a couple, guys loosened up a bit and we were able to find the offense again we've been missing the last couple games."
The Avs chased Nashville starting goaltender Pekka Rinne just 6:57 into the second period after tallying three times on three shots to make a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead. Rinne, who finished with 17 saves on 22 shots, entered the game with 25 career wins against the Avs, the second most among any keeper against the team.
The man who replaced Rinne didn't fare any better as Juuse Saros only stopped 11 of 14 in the stanza. He allowed three goals on the first eight shots he faced.
"I liked our second period. Goaltenders struggled with a couple goals early, both sides, and we just kept coming," said Avs head coach Jared Bednar. "Big response after they scored their second to go back-to-back and score a few. I liked a lot of things I saw tonight."
Video: Joonas Donskoi after his first career NHL hat trick
Donskoi began the run at 5:26 of the middle period, just 31 seconds after Duchene tallied for the Preds, and Graves followed it up 20 seconds later. Burakovsky then scored at 6:57 before Nieto had a short-handed goal off a saucer pass by J.T. Compher at 7:57. Matt Calvert registered his fourth tally of the year off a rebound at 10:01 to mark the fastest five goals (4:35) by an NHL team since the Edmonton Oilers did it in 3:35 on April 27, 2013 against the Vancouver Canucks.
After opening the period's scoring, Donskoi closed it with a redirection of Johnson's shot at 13:26, giving the Avalanche a commanding 8-3 advantage heading into the second intermission. The six goals for in the stanza tied a franchise record for the most by the club in a single period (set 10 times previously).
The game marked the fourth time this season that the Avs have scored six or more goals in a game, tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the most in the NHL.
Colorado now aims to follow up the dominant performance with another strong one as it hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday to wrap up the two-game homestand.
"We needed this win a lot," Donskoi said. "Get back to our winning habits, and maybe things will loosen a little bit. There are a lot of good things we did tonight, and we just have to keep doing it going forward."
Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Zadorov didn't finish the game after both left with upper-body injuries.
Jared Bednar said MacKinnon's absence in the third period was more precautionary. He didn't have an update on Zadorov, who only played 7:13 and did not return after 4:09 of the second stanza.
Earlier in the day, Bednar announced that goaltender Philipp Grubauer won't be available for a few games due to a lower-body injury. The team recalled Adam Werner from the American Hockey League Colorado Eagles to serve as Pavel Francouz's backup on Thursday.
There are no new updates on Colin Wilson (day-to-day), Mikko Rantanen (week-to-week) or Gabriel Landeskog (out indefinitely), who all remain out with their own lower-body injuries.
Colorado's nine goals is the most by any team this season and the most by any team since Winnipeg scored nine on Feb. 2, 2019 vs. Anaheim.
The Avs' 45 shots are their most since also recording 45 shots on goals on Feb. 27, 2019 vs. Vancouver.
In addition to his first career hat trick Joonas matched a career high with three points (third time, last: Oct. 18, 2019 at Florida). Donskoi's six shots also tied a career high (third time, last: Nov. 11, 2018 vs. Calgary).
Nathan MacKinnon produced his sixth career game with four or more points (last: Dec. 15, 2018 vs. Dallas). Of those six performances, five of them have come at home.
Cale Makar's three points were a career high. Makar now has 15 points this season, which ranks sixth among NHL defensemen. He ranks first among all rookies in points and assists (13).
Ryan Graves picked up his first career multi-point game as recorded three points (one goal, two assists).
Vladislav Kamenev registered points in consecutive games for the first time this season.