Nathan MacKinnon had a lot to do with the swift swing in momentum as he showed off his elite skill on Saturday night. He scored twice in 13 seconds late in the first period to quiet the 21,288 in attendance at Bell Centre and put the Avs in control with a 3-0 lead.
Colorado added three more tallies and won 6-1, extending its winning streak to three games while handing the Canadiens their first home regulation loss of the season.
|Nathan MacKinnon |
"Three straight for us is huge," MacKinnon said of the team's current streak. "We've won three of our first three on the road for a seven-game road trip. It feels good. Winning on a Saturday night at the Bell Centre, it's a lot of fun."
It was the perfect way to end the opening period for the Avalanche, given that the Canadiens had controlled most of the play up to that point. Colorado held a 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard from an early goal by Mikhail Grigorenko, but the Habs were the ones getting the better scoring chances through the first 20 minutes. Montreal finished with an 18-8 edge in shots on goal in the stanza but couldn't get any past goaltender Reto Berra.
"In the first period, they dominated us. They had a real good first period," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said. "They got 18 shots and Reto was perfect. He made some great saves, kept us in the game."
With Berra backstopping a strong performance—he finished with 39 saves—MacKinnon helped turn a close game into a blowout with two goals on two beautiful shots in one shift. The 20-year-old scored on a smooth forehand shot and on a slick backhand to give the Avalanche a three-goal lead, shocking the Montreal crowd that eagerly awaited its club to find the back of the net.
MacKinnon's first at 18:25 was off a faceoff in the offensive zone. Mikhail Grigorenko poked the puck loose in the left circle, and MacKinnon quickly gained control, turned and shot it into the far corner of the cage.
His second with 1:22 remaining in the period might have been even prettier as it came on the rush. Duchene fed a long pass to MacKinnon in the neutral zone, and after a give and go with Grigorenko, MacKinnon flipped a backhand shot into the same, top-right corner of the cage.
"It's always fun to score. It put a pretty commanding lead on the game at the end of the first," MacKinnon said. "I think that took a lot of energy out of them."
The Avs are now averaging more than four goals per game through the first three stops of the season-long road trip. They won 4-0 in Philadelphia on Tuesday and 3-2 on Thursday in Boston.
"I just sense that we're a more confident team offensively and certainly it helps out a lot," Roy said. "Nate scored on two beautiful shots. It was a great play by Grigo on the faceoff and a great pass to MacK on the third one. These were key plays."
MacKinnon's two scores in 13 seconds were the fastest by the team since Milan Hejduk tallied twice in 10 seconds during the second period of the Jan. 18. 2001 contest against Vancouver. Jon Klemm holds the Avalanche team record after netting back-to-back goals in the first period period on Oct. 17, 1997 at Calgary.
Saturday's game was also MacKinnon's first multi-goal effort since he had a hat trick on Feb. 22, 2015 against Tampa Bay. He currently leads the team in scoring (19 points) and shares the lead in goals (eight) with Matt Duchene.
MILESTONES FOR COMEAU
Blake Comeau picked up a few milestones in one night.
The 29-year-old forward appeared in his 500th NHL contest, recorded his 200th career point and scored his first goal in an Avalanche uniform on Saturday.
Comeau's marker came at 12:55 of the second period while Colorado was shorthanded. The left wing took advantage of a Montreal turnover in the high slot and immediately started attacking the other way. He beat Canadien goalie Mike Condon from the right circle with a slap shot that went five-hole, giving the Avs a 4-1 lead
"I mean tonight, without a doubt, the fourth goal was big for us," Roy said of Comeau's tally. "We were shorthanded, Montreal had the momentum. Scoring that fourth goal really helped out our team."
The Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, native is in his first season with Colorado after playing his first nine seasons in the league with the New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Comeau now has 89 goals and 111 assists as he reaches the half-century mark in games played.
"It's an exciting accomplishment," Comeau said Saturday morning about reaching 500 games. "Growing up, you dream about playing in the NHL and when the day finally comes, it's an exciting time. And to be able to play in the league this long, I've been very fortunate. I've gotten to meet some great people, play with some great players. I think it's just a time that I can look back at everything and be proud and be excited."
There was another games played milestone on Saturday as well with Tyson Barrie appearing in his 200th NHL contest.
GRIGORENKO SCORES ON PROMOTION
Forward Mikhail Grigorenko was promoted to Colorado's top forward line on Saturday night, and he delivered in the first period.
Grigorenko scored his first goal of the season and his first in an Avalanche jersey 3:26 into the game to give Colorado an early 1-0 lead.
After an offensive zone faceoff win by Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene grabbed the loose puck and threw it out in front where in caromed off a player and right to Grigorenko. The Russian then sent a shot that beat Condon down low.
"I'm so excited that he scored," Duchene said. "He has been doing so many good things, and it was great to see him score. He played an outstanding game. You can see his confidence every single shift get better and better."
Grigorenko also assisted on MacKinnon's two goals to top off the night with a career-high three points.
"They are great players," Grigorenko said of his linemates Duchene and MacKinnon. "They are smart and fast and skilled. If you get open, you get the puck, you just have to think the same way and try to give them the puck."
Colorado's top forward combo finished with a total of nine points.
The Russian joined the club's hottest line for parts of the previous game on Thursday in Boston after Gabriel Landeskog was ejected for an illegal hit to the head and later suspended two games. Grigorenko had mostly been playing a bottom-six role this season.