ST. PAUL, Minn.--After having nine full days off and 11 days between games due to the All-Star Break and the team's bye week, the Colorado Avalanche came out of the layoff in the schedule and picked up where it left off throughout a five-game road trip.
The Avs went 3-0-2 before the break and improved to 7-1-2 in their last 10 after they concluded the trip on Sunday with a 3-2 win against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. They posted a 4-1-0 mark on the journey, the first time that Colorado has won four times on a five-game trip since Oct. 10-17, 2011 (5-0-0).
"The biggest thing is just playing a team game for us," said Matt Calvert. "You come out of the break, you don't know what to expect. We had some teams that were low in the standings and then we have a big character win in Columbus and follow it up with another character win tonight. Minnesota has beaten a lot of good teams, and they are fighting for their playoff lives. To come out with two points on the road here and head home for a nice stretch here, we are pretty excited."
The Avalanche opened the trip with a loss at the Philadelphia Flyers but outscored its opponents 15-5 over the last four games. The club produced a 6-1 triumph at the Buffalo Sabres and a 4-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators as well as a 2-1 win at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday before the game in Minnesota.
Video: Coach Jared Bednar after the Avs' win at Minnesota
"Some different games. Buffalo was pretty wide open, and we go into Ottawa--games that we feel like we should win against hard-working teams, we did that," head coach Jared Bednar said of the trip. "Play a team in Columbus that is a real shut-down team--can be a frustrating game because they don't give you any room to move, they are always above pucks--did a good job there. Even the Philly game, to be honest with you, I liked a lot of the things we did. We were a dangerous team in that game but there were some unfortunate penalties and then tonight I didn't think we were that disciplined either.
"We took a couple offensive zone penalties… But again, we find a way to get the job done, tonight was again a tough one with the back-to-back. Five different games, played good in all of them and we are able to get four wins on the road, which is big, especially this time of year."
Colorado improved to 4-4-1 in the second game when playing on consecutive days, and the team has now swept four sets of consecutive-night games this season.
After Philipp Grubauer only allowed one goal against the Blue Jackets on Saturday, the third straight game in which he limited the opposition to one tally, Pavel Francouz made his first appearance in net on the trip.
Video: COL@MIN: Francouz flashes the leather on Fiala
"I thought he was real strong down low, covered up some of those rebounds," Bednar said of Francouz. "The third period we did a better job getting in there and collapsing and picking up some of those loose pucks with our wings, getting five guys down there to protect the front of the net. He just looked good. He looked sharp. You need that, like I said before, you need better than average goaltending every night in this league to win and he gave us that tonight."
Prior to the outing against the Wild, the last time Francouz played was Jan. 20 versus the Detroit Red Wings, the game before the Avalanche's break.
Even with it being almost a full three weeks between appearances for the Czech goaltender, he stopped 34-of-36 shots and the only two pucks that got past him came while Colorado was killing penalties.
Video: Pavel Francouz after making 34 saves in Minnesota
"It has been a while since I last played, and it is always tough because if you don't play a lot it is always tough to go there," Francouz said. "But, on the other side, you are pretty rested and fresh. I was kind of thinking this way that I am fresh and ready for the game."
The Avalanche has recorded 18 wins as the visiting team this year, the second-most road wins in the league behind the Washington Capitals (20), and now returns home for a five-game homestand, which is tied for the club's longest of the season.
The goal during the homestay for the Avs will not only be to continue getting results but also improving the team's play as the regular-season winds down.
"We are going to try to take this play all the way through to the end of the season. Our guys are focused in on where we want to get to and our habits are getting better," said Bednar. "I think the commitment to our team is getting better as we go, and yeah, that is definitely the challenge. Keep getting better. Not just take this play that we had on the road trip, but keep getting better every day until the end of the year."
After assisting on Nathan MacKinnon's power-play tally earlier in the contest, Nazem Kadri left the game early in the third period with a lower-body injury and did not return.
"I have not talked to the trainers. He left at the start of the third period, thought he would be able to come out and try it and it didn't go so well," head coach Jared Bednar said postgame. "It is probably a smart decision if he is unable to play 100 percent to come out of the game, so we support him on that. We will see where it goes either later tonight or tomorrow when we get back."
Kadri has recorded 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) in 51 games so far this season.
MORE AVALANCHE NOTES
The Avs are 2-2-0 against Minnesota this season with one game remaining in the season series, which takes place on March 23 in St. Paul.
Matt Calvert assisted on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's goal to record his 200th career NHL point. The left wing has 95 goals and 105 assists in 545 games in the league.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored his eighth goal of the season to set a new career high and eclipse his previous best of seven markers during the 2015-16 season with Philadelphia.
J.T. Compher tallied his 17th assist of the season, a new career high that surpasses his previous best of 16 from the 2018-19 campaign.
Gabriel Landeskog notched his fourth game-winning goal of the season and the 30th game-winner of his career, surpassing Matt Duchene to take sole possession of eighth place on the franchise's all-time game-winning goals list. He ranks fifth in game-winning tallies since the team moved to Denver in 1995.
Cale Makar extended his point streak to four games and has collected five points (1g/4a) in that span. His 42 points (12g/30a) pace all rookies. He became the second rookie defenseman in franchise history to produce 30 or more assists in a single season, joining Bruce Bell (31) in 1984-85.