After cheering on his team away from the ice for the past five weeks, Mikko Rantanen made his presence known in his return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup.
Rantanen skated in his first game since Oct. 21 on Saturday and had a goal and three assists to tie his career high with a four-point performance, but he wasn't the only Avalanche player to factor on four goals.
Joonas Donskoi also found the back of the net twice and added two helpers for his first career four-point game. The two Colorado Finns helped the Avs to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 at Pepsi Center for their third win in a row.
The forwards skated on a line together that was centered by Nathan MacKinnon and all three players registered a point on two of Colorado's goals in the win: once with MacKinnon finding twine at 11:08 of the first period and again with Donskoi finishing the play at 8:28 of the second stanza.
Video: CHI@COL: Donskoi beats Crawford for his second goal
"It is a lot of fun [playing with] MacK and Mikko," said Donskoi. "I think I am just trying to keep up with those guys--trying to grind and work hard and do all that stuff. Those are two elite players, so it has been a lot of fun."
After producing just one three-point game in the previous four seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Saturday's contest marked the fourth game of the season that Donskoi has had three or more points. The Raahe, Finland, native increased his season total to 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) through 26 outings.
His first marker stood as the game-winner, the first game-winning goal of the season and the eighth of his career.
Video: Joonas Dosnkoi on his career-high night vs. Hawks
"He works hard on pucks, strong guy, good sense, likes to go to the net," head coach Jared Bednar said of Donskoi. "If I am correct, I think Nathan is leading the league in shots for over the last however long it is, almost two years, and when you have a guy that is going to put pucks to the net and find space, you have to have someone that is going to go there and pay the price.
"To battle for screens and to pick up rebounds and tips, and that is why [Gabriel Landeskog] has a lot of success with him too. Those are both very similar players, one is a left shot, one is a right shot, but I see them as very similar guys."
Rantanen had missed 16 games with a lower-body injury, and his return was highly anticipated for both the Avalanche's fans and the players in the locker room.
Video: CHI@COL: Rantanen puts home rebound to increase lead
"You were able to tell coming to the rink, seeing Mikko back in the lineup, it was a lot of fun, especially for me, speaking Finnish again," said Donskoi. "It was kind of fun to speak Finnish a little bit, and on the bench too. We need Mikko, and hopefully he is going to stay healthy from now on.
"Obviously getting Mikko back is helping us a lot. He's an amazing player and he was making some great plays tonight, so we were able to find the back of the net tonight pretty good. I don't know, it felt good."
It was Rantanen's fourth multi-point game of the season. He has points in nine of his 10 games this year and a point in each of the last three games he has played. The Nousiainen, Finland, native has now had four points in a contest seven times in his career and has registered three helpers eight times.
Video: CHI@COL: Rantanen, Kadri connect for power-play goal
"He is an elite player, he really is. The way he thinks the game, the way he maneuvers around the ice, his skill, ability, size, strength, all that," Bednar said of Rantanen. "You know he is going to be able to produce, it is just the type of player he has become. And, you know, he has got some pretty good linemates there too and they had a night tonight. Those guys were all really good. Donskoi, MacKinnon, Rantanen, [Nazem] Kadri got us started with two goals, and our penalty kill was pretty good too."
With the Avs leading by five goals after 40 minutes, Rantanen did not play in the third period but it was just for precautionary reasons.
"He is fine, tweaked his leg a little bit a couple of times and started to get a little tired," said Bednar. "I didn't see any reason to bring him out for the third in a 7-2 game (at the time), so he will be ready to go."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after the 7-3 win
The Avalanche finished month of November 8-6-0, going 8-3-0 over its last 11 contests after beginning the month 0-3-0. Colorado is also 8-3-1 at home this season, tied for the third-most home wins in the Western Conference.
With seven goals versus Chicago, it was the fifth time this year that the Avs have scored six or more goals in a game and the club is averaging 3.73 goals per contest, the best average in the NHL.
"It's been fun to see that even that we have a lot of guys out of the lineup, we still have the depth scoring," said Donskoi. "We have had a lot of different guys scoring goals lately and a lot of guys with good confidence right now, so that has been carrying us the last couple of weeks."
The win completed Colorado's sweep of the back-to-back, home-and-home set with Chicago. It is the second time the Avs have won on consecutive days this season.
NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER
Nathan MacKinnon had three points in the win and now has 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 14 games this month, the second most in the league. It is a new career high for him for points in any month, and his 25 points this year also sets a new Avalanche team record (since 1995-96) for the most by a player in the month of November.
Video: CHI@COL: MacKinnon puts home Rantanen's nice pass
It is the third straight campaign that MacKinnon has recorded at least 20 points in the 11th month of the year. He recorded 23 last November and 20 in 2017.
MacKinnon--who extended his point streak to seven games (six goals, 10 assists) and finished the home-and-home set with the Blackhawks with seven total points (two goals, five assists)--has combined for 68 points (24 goals, 44 assists) in 40 November games since 2017, the most of any player.
MORE AVALANCHE NOTES
Nazem Kadri registered his second multi-goal game of the season and his fifth multi-point performance in 2019-20
Kadri scored twice in the opening period and Donskoi tallied twice in the second period to mark the seventh and eighth times this season Colorado has had a player with multiple goals in a single frame.
Ryan Graves extended his point streak to three games, a new career best. He previously had point streaks of two games three times in his career, the last one coming Nov. 7-9, 2019.
Matt Nieto assisted on Kadri's second goal and is now on a three-game point streak.
Ian Cole recorded his 100th career assist with a helper on Donskoi's first tally.
T.J. Tynan picked up his first career NHL point with an assist on Tyson Jost's goal
Samuel Girard recorded his first NHL fight and major penalty after dropping the gloves with Alex DeBrincat at 17:23 of the first period.
Logan O'Connor played in his sixth game of the season, surpassing the total from his rookie campaign last year.