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Rantanen Puts On A Show In Shutout Win

The rookie forward scored three goals in the victory

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Thirty seconds.

That's all it would take for the Colorado Avalanche to beat the Montreal Canadiens in the Mikko Rantanen show on Tuesday. Montreal just didn't know it at the time.

The Avs rookie tallied his first of a career-high three goals a mere half-minute into the match, potting the eventual game-winner on a shot through traffic that doesn't usually best a goaltender like Carey Price.

"I was surprised, yeah. It was a great job by [Gabriel Landeskog] and [Nathan MacKinnon] to go to the net," the 20-year-old said. "It's hard to score on Price from that far if there's nobody going to the net. So that was good. Credit to them."

Video: Mikko Rantanen on his first NHL hat trick

Colorado's fastest goal to start a game this season was enough to inspire an Avalanche squad hungry for a string of success, and Norwegian forward Andreas Martinsen followed suit less than two minutes later when he fired a shot from the faceoff circle that found twine.

The crowd was energized, and so were the players. Feeding on the zest, Rantanen would prove to be the master of Montreal, seeking revenge for the lopsided 10-1 defeat at the hands of the club earlier in the year.

"I think the first six shifts, we went really good," Rantanen said. "We got two goals, and that's a very good start. As good a team as Montreal is--they're very good defensively and they have the best goalie in the league--so its was a great start. 

"I think we earned a little payback from what happened in Montreal. Nobody was happy; it was embarrassing. We were sharp tonight, and we played a solid 60 minutes. [Calvin Pickard] was great at the other end. So it was a great game."

The Avs were tenacious and unrelenting, and the second period offered more of the same. The hard work paid off 13:10 into the middle stanza when Rantanen tipped Mark Barberio's point shot and the puck sailed past the Canadiens netminder. The helper was the new defenseman's first in a burgundy sweater, and it also came against his former squad.

It was the first time in his young career that Rantanen scored twice in a single game, and the team was electrified and continued to surge.

The Finnish phenom fed off this and buried his third tally to make it rain hats in the final frame, finishing a one-timer into the net for his first NHL hat trick and the 4-0 lead.

"Obviously, it's a dream come true," Rantanen said. "You watch other guys, like when you're younger, you watch guys score hat tricks and the crowd is going wild. So it's a dream come true, but the most important thing still was the two points.

"It was a great feeling." 

Building on the success of Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets was the objective for Colorado entering Tuesday's matchup, and the team certainly succeeded in that regard. The Avs knew it would require the same attention to detail and commitment to execution that brought them success over the weekend, and that it wouldn't come easy.

But they've been working hard and trending in the right direction for some time now, and the results are starting to show.

"Now we're playing like we should have played the last 30 games, but I have to say I think we have been working hard but now the puck is coming to us, too," Rantanen said. "We scored five goals in the last game and now we got four goals, so it's pretty good. We have to just keep going like this [until] the end of the season.

"It's bouncing for me too, and that's nice, of course. It's nice to see that our team is getting those bounces. We have been really good defensively, too. That's what you need if you want to beat these teams, and Montreal is a top team in the league. So it was great for us."

 Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar on the win vs. Montreal

Rantanen has been a major factor in Colorado's recent victories, and he's put away five goals and an assist in his last five contests.

"I'll say two things. He's been watching a lot of video with Tim [Army] on offensive-zone play, O-zone entries, and we're just trying to encourage all our guys really," head coach Jared Bednar said. "For a team that doesn't score that much for a lot of the season, we sure don't want to shoot the puck, you know, and we're trying to encourage our guys to use their skill to get into shooting positions instead of looking to make a real fancy play. When you put pucks in traffic to the net, good things happen. 

"Even on the power-play goal, that's a great shot. It's on and off his tape. It doesn't have to be the perfect shot, it's just got to get on and off your tape to the net before the goalie can get set. So we've been working on some things like that, especially Tim, with him, and I think it's paying a few dividends for him. Plus the experience of playing in the league and now he's halfway through the season. It takes time to learn where your space is and how you can attack."

 Video: Mark Barberio has two assists vs. former team 

PICKARD GETS THIRD SHUTOUT

Calvin Pickard was a brick wall in Colorado's shutout victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. The 24-year-old goalkeeper turned aside every single one of the 27 shots tossed his way, including when the team needed him most.

"I thought the work in front of him was great. I didn't think we gave up a bunch of quality chances," head coach Jared Bednar said. "When we needed a save, we got it from him. He looked like he gained a little confidence from last game. I know he wasn't happy with the way he played out in California. We talked about some things, he's looked at some video. I think he's trying to reset, much like the rest of our team, just keep trying to reset every game and kind of melt off the last game. He had a good game last game, and he continued that on tonight. So he had a real good outing for us." 

The scoreless effort was the third of Pickard's career, and it was particularly enjoyable to get against a team that's currently sitting atop the Atlantic Division. 

"They're a good team. It's nice to get a shutout against a good team. Definitely want to build off that. As a group, we know we can replicate that every night, playing like that, and that's what we have to do," Pickard said after the win. "We're playing great all over the ice, getting off to great starts. We got our legs. We're playing complete games, and it pretty much boils down to that. We're playing good in all three zones, penalty kill, power play, guys are scoring, guys are blocking shots; it's a combination of a lot of things.

Video: Calvin Pickard records shutout vs. Canadiens

"It's good redemption for us. We definitely owed them a game, but there's more to it than that. We're in a big hole. We want to play a lot of good hockey going forward, so it's nice to get two games strung together. We just got to keep it going."

Not only did Pickard contribute on his end of the ice, but he also helped with the scoring, scooping up a secondary assist on Andreas Martinsen's marker.

"It's kind of lucky, I guess," he said of the play. "I just threw it up the wall and [Francois Beauchemin] makes a nice chip off the boards and Marty goes in and scores. But it's nice to get on the scoresheet that way.

"It was only a matter of time before we strung a couple of these games together. We're definitely capable. We did it at the start of the year. We had a lot of good games in October, November, but it was tough sledding there December, January. A lot of close games that didn't end up in wins. When we're scoring four or five goals in back-to-back games, it's great. Especially playing the defense we did today and last game, it's fun for me to watch back there and it's easier to play."

 

NIETO LEAVES GAME

Although everyone was full of smiles and sunshine following the 4-0 victory at Pepsi Center, the lone dark spot on the night was the loss of forward Matt Nieto.

The Long Beach, California, native left the contest in the third period after blocking a shot from the point.

"He went for an X-ray. Got hit in the leg," head coach Jared Bednar said. "I haven't heard any results just yet. I'm sure they're going to have to look at it and see. He took a shot in the leg, so hopefully he's OK."

 

IGINLA MOVES ON UP

Avalanche veteran forward Jarome Iginla continued moving up the NHL record book on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old forward skated in his 1,524th league contest, moving him into a tie with Brendan Shanahan for 14th place on the all-time games played list.

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