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O'Reilly Trio Playing With Fire

by Alyssa Romeo / Colorado Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly have been melting the ice for the past 10 games.

The three stars of Wednesday night’s 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins were previously reunited back on the same line at practice on Tuesday after spending roughly a game apart, and it didn’t take long for them to prove that their collective flames have continued to burn bright.

Every goal in Wednesday night’s win was directly linked to at least one of the players on Landeskog’s line.

“They were creating a lot. They had a great night,” right wing Jarome Iginla said after the win.

A scoreless first frame was followed by two second-period goals from the Avalanche. The first came from Iginla on the power play, merely 13 seconds into the stanza. The other was on a redirect by 19-year-old Nathan MacKinnon. Both featured a helper from Avalanche captain.

The tally was MacKinnon’s 14th of the season, and his first scored while playing with a broken nose, suffered Feb. 28 against the Minnesota Wild.

The finishing touch in the win over Pittsburgh came when the 22-year-old Landeskog cut past a defender, demonstrating some impressive finesse, before ripping a quick wrist shot that blazed past Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and into the net.

Landeskog’s 17th goal of the season was assisted by O’Reilly, the captain’s 24-year-old center.

“It was sort of a 1-on-1, and [the defenseman] was kind of on my side, and I felt him come towards me and I cut back and kept going,” said Landeskog on the play. “Low blocker usually works on left-handed goalies, so I tried that tonight and it worked.”

Landeskog, O’Reilly and MacKinnon will give the Avalanche a competitive advantage if they can continue to perform as they have recently. The three youngsters illuminated Colorado’s offense in the triumph over Pittsburgh, and looking back at their play over the past 10 games, these players have been hot all along.

Landeskog was just on a five game-goal streak, spanning Feb. 12-20, and has registered seven goals and five assists over the course of the last 10 contests, upping his points total to 43 (17 goals, 26 assists overall) on the season.

On Wednesday night alone, the Swedish left-wing added three points with his goal and two assists.

“He played great tonight and was a big part [of the] momentum,” Iginla said after the game. “He’s been playing really well for a long time. Not five games, not 10 games, maybe 20 games where you can just see him in a groove. He’s physical, he blocks shots, and he scores some nice goals and makes some nice passes. He’s great to have on your team.

“He’s definitely the big leader on our team and guys follow that, and it’s fun to watch him when he’s in the zone like that.”

The second-overall pick at the 2011 NHL Draft, Landeskog has elevated his game to the next level as of late, which has also sparked MacKinnon and O’Reilly into similar states of play.

A second-year forward, MacKinnon has five goals in his past five games, which includes his first NHL hat trick on Feb. 22 versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. Add four helpers in the last 10 games and he’s almost playing at a point-per-game pace.

MacKinnon and Landeskog have been scorching up the scoreboard, and that has as much to do with the play of O’Reilly as it does their own talent. O’Reilly has assisted on eight of the last 12 goals scored by his linemates, helping increase his point total to 37.

Landeskog, MacKinnon and O’Reilly leapt head first into a red-hot groove, combining to tally 12 of Colorado’s 26 goals in the previous 10 matches. That means the trio has accounted for almost half of the Avalanche’s goals since Feb. 12.

Currently sitting outside of the playoffs and looking in, the Avalanche has to play its best hockey of the season to push for a spot in the postseason. Luckily, at least one line is already there.

With less than 20 games left in the regular season, Landeskog, O’Reilly and MacKinnon will look to keep the fire burning.

“Our goal is 28 more points,” MacKinnon said. “We have 18 games left and it’s going to be tight, but we feel we’re confident this month that we can get some wins. We have to get rolling.”

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