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Cole Contributing on Defense and Offense

Defenseman extends point streak to season-long four games

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Ian Cole was absent for the Colorado Avalanche's first four games of the season as he was finishing his recovery from dual hip surgery in the offseason, but since his return on Oct. 14, Cole has provided the solid defense that he is known for and has chipped in offensively.

The veteran defenseman added to his point streak on Saturday at American Airlines Center as he scored his third goal of the season, but the Avalanche fell 3-2 in a shootout against the Dallas Stars.

The one point earned does give Colorado 50 on the season and makes it the second club in the Western Conference to reach the half-century mark. The Avs were playing their first shootout of the year, the last team in the league to play in a tiebreaker.

"I thought it was a pretty well-played game," said Colorado head coach Jared Bednar. "Both teams fighting hard for it and then a shootout, you can flip a coin."

Cole showed off his athleticism and basketball hops on his goal, as Matt Nieto's pass deflected off a Stars player's stick and up in the air. The 6-foot-1 rear guard jumped up to grab the puck before dropping it to the ice and putting a shot on net that beat Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop five-hole at 7:19 of the second period.

"I think we're just trying to get playable pucks to the net for our forwards," Cole said of working to create offense. "They've done a great job going to the net, great job of kind of creating havoc, and our job as D is to just get pucks down there and let them go to work."

Video: COL@DAL: Cole goes five-hole on Bishop

The tally extended his point streak to a season-long four games (one goal, three assists), and he now has six points (two goals, four assists) in his last six contests. It is his first four-game point streak since Nov. 30-Dec. 5, 2016 and one off his career high of five contests in a row (March 29-April 7, 2015).

Cole's 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) after 34 games this year rank second among team defensemen in scoring and is the third most he's recorded in a season during his nine NHL campaigns. And there is still over half of the campaign left to be played for him to try and best his 26-point season with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016-17.

The Ann Arbor, Michigan, native ranks second on the Avs in blocked shots (78) and has the second-best plus/minus rating in the Western Conference at plus-22, trailing only fellow Colorado blueliner Ryan Graves (plus-29).

In addition to his goal against Dallas, Cole also finished with four shot attempts, two hits, a blocked shot and a plus-1 rating.

KEY KILL

The Avalanche received a big penalty kill in the closing minutes of overtime after Nathan MacKinnon was whistled for tripping with 2:13 remaining. The Stars went on a 4-on-3 power play for pretty much the rest of the OT period, but the Avs didn't break during the man disadvantage.

"Penalty kill in overtime was exceptional," Bednar said. "Made some sacrifice blocks, got a big save when we needed it. It's a really talented group that they put on the ice, those four guys, so those three [penalty killers] did a nice job as we rotated through them."

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer made seven saves during the five-minute overtime, bringing his game total to 38.

The Avalanche finished 4-for-5 on the penalty kill in the game, and the Stars' only power-play goal came after a fortuitous deflection off a stick.

DIVISION RIVALRY STRETCH

The Avalanche was playing its second game in as many nights, and it faced divisional foes in each contest. Colorado lost 6-4 to the Minnesota Wild on Friday before traveling to face the Stars.

The Avs are now 3-3-1 in the second contest of back-to-backs and will play five more consecutive-night sets this year (12 total).

The matchup in Dallas was also the second game of four straight against Central Division opponents, as Colorado now returns home to host the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday before facing the St. Louis Blues at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

MORE NOTES

The Avalanche registered 43 shots on goal after recording 44 versus Minnesota on Friday. It is the first time this year the Avs have recorded 40 or more shots in back-to-back games.

Matt Nieto recorded his second multi-point game of the season (also: Nov. 7 vs. Nashville).

Ryan Graves finished with a career-high seven shots, surpassing his previous best of five set on Dec. 23 at Vegas. He now has 76 shots this season, ranked first among Avs defensemen.

Graves also finished with a plus-2 rating and is now plus-29 on the season, tied with Carolina's Dougie Hamilton for the best in the league.

Matt Calvert's six hits is his most in a game since Dec. 12, 2015 vs. NY Islanders (also six).

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