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Avalanche Finns Productive to Open Campaign

Donskoi, Rantanen tally twice in season opener

by Callie Parmele @CallieParmele /

The Colorado Avalanche had not one, but two skaters that opened the 2019-20 season with multi-goal performances.

Mikko Rantanen and Joonas Donskoi, each scored twice as the Avalanche began the new campaign with a 5-3 victory versus the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

It was Rantanen's ninth regular-season, multi-goal game of his career and marked the seventh time that Donskoi had accomplished the feat.

Thursday's outing was also the first time that both of Colorado's Finnish players, Rantanen (Nousiainen) and Donskoi (Raahe), were on the ice together in Avalanche sweaters. Moreover, it was Donskoi's first contest with the Avs after he signed a four-year deal with the club on July 1 after spending his first four NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks.

Video: CGY@COL: Donskoi deflects Girard's shot for PPG

Donskoi scored the first goal of the game after he redirected Samuel Girard's slap shot from the blue line in the closing seconds of a Colorado power play, and he added another marker with an empty-net tally. 

"That was so much fun," said Donskoi. "I have been waiting for this day all summer long, and I heard a lot of good things about the Colorado Avalanche fans and it was fun to see that everything that I heard is true. It was super loud and especially to get the first win it was nice."

It was the second time in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history that two players each recorded a multi-goal game in a season opener. The first instance occurred on Oct. 9, 1980 when Quebec's Michel Goulet and Jacques Richard both tallied twice in a 5-5 tie against Calgary.

Video: Joonas Donskoi after his first game with the Avs

"It's exciting, especially to start at home with this amazing crowd behind us," Rantanen said of the victory. "Can't start better than that and a big win for the team too."

Rantanen had four multi-goal contests in 2018-19 when he recorded career highs with 31 goals and 56 assists for 87 points in 74 outings. He signed a six-year contract extension with the Avalanche as the club was skating in its final contest of the 2019 preseason at the Dallas Stars last Saturday, so the 22-year-old forward wasn't able to participate in any of Colorado's exhibition games.

"I felt OK, actually. We got a pretty good start to the game, got the legs going, had a lot of power plays," Rantanen said of being in a game setting for the first time since May. "Got a lot of puck touches in the first period, so that probably helped a lot. I think the legs are going to feel better when we get a couple games under the belt with obviously the altitude and everything, but I'll get used to it."

Video: CGY@COL: Landeskog sets up Rantanen's backhand tally

Although he didn't have any preseason contests in the books, Rantanen was familiar with his linemates. Head coach Jared Bednar united Rantanen with Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon, a trio that has been intact for much of the past two years.

Landeskog set up Rantanen's first goal with a cross-ice pass that went through three Calgary defenders, and MacKinnon fired a pass through the seam on the power play that Rantanen wired past the Flames goaltender.

"We've played so many games together, so it's pretty easy," said Rantanen. "The chemistry is there even though we didn't see each other for four or five months. The game is always similar, so it's a good start."

Video: CGY@COL: Rantanen snipes second goal on power play

Rantanen's last game action came in May, but he stayed sharp by spending some of the preseason practicing with SC Bern of the Swiss pro league. Head coach Jared Bednar said he didn't have any hesitation that the right wing was ready for puck drop.

"I mean there is doubt before he gets here, but then as soon as I watched him practice for two days I knew that he was going to pick up where he left off," said Bednar. "I mean he came in in practice and it looked easy for him. I know he has got a lot of confidence. He is happy with the new contract, we are happy to have him back, and he must have put in some good work there in Switzerland for a couple weeks."

There is still plenty of work to be done in the marathon that is an 82-game NHL schedule, but Colorado's two Finns have already displayed their abilities to score in the first outing of the campaign.

"It was a good start for Finland I guess, but hopefully we can continue for another 81 games," said Rantanen. "It's a long season. Donskoi is a good addition and all the new guys looked really good, so that is good for us."

Colorado continues its four-game, season-opening homestand on Saturday in a Division Rival Night game against the Minnesota Wild.

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