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Early and Late Goals Lead Avalanche to Vegas Victory

Colorado splits its two road games against the Golden Knights

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury hadn't allowed any shots to get past him in the first period of any of his first eight games of the season.

He wasn't able to stay perfect for a ninth outing on Tuesday.

Nathan MacKinnon broke Fleury's run at 7:08 of the first period, and Nazem Kadri gave the netminder his second loss of the season after scoring in the final minute of play in the Colorado Avalanche's 3-2 win in Vegas at T-Mobile Arena.

After falling 1-0 on Sunday in the opener of the four-game, regular-season series, the Avalanche had better execution and gained two valuable points in the West Division standings, moving to third place with an 8-4-1 record (17 points).

"Finding a way to carve out a win here tonight in regulation especially I think was exceptional. We'll take the result," head coach Jarred Bednar said afterward.

MacKinnon's marker ended a seven-game drought for the forward, as it was his first goal since Jan. 21 at the Los Angeles Kings. He found twine after taking a pass from Mikko Rantanen in the slot and unleashing a snap shot midway through the first frame to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead.

"Getting the MacKinnon line going tonight, seeing him score early, it looked like there was a little bit of a weight lifted off his shoulder," Bednar said. "He had another few chances--he got robbed on the first shift of the game, right on the doorstep."

Video: COL@VGK: MacKinnon buries one-timer past Fleury

Colorado has now tallied the first goal in 10 of its 13 games this season and is 7-2-1 when getting on the scoreboard first. The squad has also recorded 13 total markers in the first period, the most in the league for teams that have played 13 or fewer games.

Vegas was held scoreless through the first intermission as well, making it the third-straight game that the Avalanche didn't allow a goal in the opening 20 minutes. The team's six goals against in the first period in 2020-21 are the second fewest in the NHL behind the New Jersey Devils (five), who have played only 10 games.

Kadri's tally with 41 seconds remaining in the third period came during a scramble in front of Fleury and just moments after the center won an offensive-zone faceoff.

"First and foremost, just tried to win the faceoff, start there," Kadri said. "We tried to keep it pretty simple, and just told the D-man to get the puck on net and we were able to hop on the rebound and luckily it went in."

Video: COL@VGK: Kadri sweeps up rebound for go-ahead goal

The center is no stranger to late-game heroics, as he also tallied the winning goal in the final second of regulation (at 19:59) on Aug. 2 against the St. Louis Blues in round-robin play during the 2020 postseason.

He is the first player in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques franchise history to record multiple go-ahead goals in the final minute of regulation in the regular season and playoffs.

"Kadri's line was digging in. Everyone was working and trying to do the right things and play the right way and eventually it paid off for us," Bednar said. "It took right to the end of the game for that to happen, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Again it was tough sledding at times, but to be able to come out of here with a split under the circumstances is a great job by our team."

Kadri's fourth tally of the year was also key in that the Avalanche avoided giving the Golden Knights an extra point in the standing if the game had went to overtime. Now Colorado is just four points behind and has a game in hand on division-leading Vegas, which it plays two more times in the next week.

"That was an important victory, especially in regulation," Kadri said. "Down quite a few guys against a great team. It's was difficult, but [goaltender Philipp Grubauer] stayed strong, we were able to get some timely bounces and win the game."


Bowen Byram might be a 19-year-old rookie, but he's making himself a home on the Avalanche's defense.

Byram appeared in his 10th game of the season and saw a career-high 25:03 of ice time, the fourth time this season that he has played 20 or more minutes. His previous best was 23:07, which he had set in the game prior on Sunday at the Golden Knights.

"This isn't an easy situation," Kadri said of Byram's progression. "Playing a team like Vegas multiple times in a row, getting the ice time that he's gotten at his age is obviously a factor. The more experience he gets, the better the player he is going to be. The more experience, he knows what he's capable of out there and you're just able to generate that confidence to do it night in and night out. So he's going to be a great player."

Byram also had the primary shot that created Kadri's game-winning goal late in the contest, his second assist of the year.

"You can see his confidence growing every game with him holding onto pucks, making plays," Brandon Saad noted of the first-year rear guard. "He obviously has talent, but you can just see it, he wants it, he has that hunger and he's getting better every game."


Defenseman Cale Makar was a game-time decision but ended up missing his second-straight outing with an upper-body injury.

Makar took part in the Avs' morning skate and was out for warmup prior to puck drop, but it was eventually decided that he could use another night of rest.

"He's close, I just don't know if it will be tonight or not," Bednar said after the pre-game practice on Wednesday.

Makar has 12 points (one goal and 11 assists) in 11 games this year and leads all league defensemen with a 1.09 points-per-game average.


The Avalanche has five players out due to COVID protocols, but the team could get three of them back for its next game on Saturday at Lake Tahoe.

Head coach Jared Bednar said that forwards Tyson Jost, Gabriel Landeskog and Kiefer Sherwood--who he revealed earlier in the day has also been out due to a COVID protocol-related absence--should be able to start skating again on Wednesday. All three have been on the list for more than a week and have been cleared to work out and take part in on-ice activities.

Samuel Girard still needs to go through testing before being cleared, and Bednar said the defenseman likely won't be able to start skating again until the weekend.

On Monday, backup goaltender Hunter Miska was added to the NHL's COVID list. The team recalled Peyton Jones from the Colorado Eagles to serve as the goalie on the team's taxi squad in the meantime.


Colorado has allowed two or fewer goals in each of its last three contests. The Avs defense ranks first in the NHL, surrendering just 2.08 goals per game.

The Avalanche's 22 blocked shots was a season high.

Philipp Grubauer earned his eighth win of the season, tied for third in the NHL.

Brandon Saad (goal and an assist) recorded his fourth multi-point game of the season. His six goals this season rank second on the team behind Mikko Rantanen (seven).

Devon Toews equaled his career high with six blocked shots. His previous career best came last month, as he also had six blocked shots on Jan. 19, 2021 at Los Angeles. Toews also set a career high with 26:48 of ice time.

Joonas Donskoi recorded two points (two assists) and has tallied seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last seven outings.

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