Mikko Rantanen has found his groove in March, scoring 12 times this month to hit the 20-goal mark for the fourth time in his career.
Rantanen opened the scoring in the Colorado Avalanche's 5-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks at Ball Arena on Monday, his 12th time finding the back of the net in March.
Rantanen's 12 goals this month are tied for the second-most by an Avalanche player in a single month since the team moved to Denver. Milan Hejduk recorded 12 tallies in February 2003, while Joe Sakic holds the Avalanche record (since 1995) with 15 markers in March 2000.
"Obviously it's nice to score some goals you know, that's not the main thing why I go to the games, but I know I have to help the team on the offensive side," said Rantanen. "It's nice to capitalize on some chances. Landy (Gabriel Landeskog) and Nate (Nathan MacKinnon) are doing a good job helping me get chances, so obviously can't complain."
The Avalanche right wing's goal on Monday came on a backhand shot after MacKinnon found him cutting into the slot after a faceoff.
Video: ANA@COL: Rantanen nets backhander for opening goal
It was his fifth goal off a backhand, tied for the most in the league this season, according the NHL Stats. His overall shooting percentage has been between 15 and 17.8 during his NHL tenure, but of his backhand attempts this year, 45.5 percent of those shots have hit twine.
"Just have to use it," Rantanen said of the shot. "I play on my off wing, on the right-hand side and I am a left-handed guy, so I have to use my backhand a lot receiving pucks and passing on the backhand also, a lot and shooting obviously. I worked on it a lot when I was younger."
His tally was the first of the matchup, the 24th time that Colorado has scored the first goal of the game this season, a league best. The Avs are now 19-3-2 when lighting the lamp first and own the most wins in the NHL when being the first team to find the back of the net.
The marker increased Rantanen's totals for the year to 20 goals and 20 assists for 40 points in 34 games, ranking third in markers and tied for fifth in points in the league. In March, Rantanen is tied with the Vegas Golden Knights' Mark Stone for second in the league with 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists).
"It takes a lot of consistency, nowadays you don't see many guys hit 50 [goals] anymore," Rantanen said. "The goalies are so good, defensive play has gotten even better… I just try to do my best and if I can find the back of the net that is a good thing."
Video: Mikko Rantanen on the Avs victory vs. Anaheim
He was one of five Avalanche skaters to score in the win as Tyson Jost, Gabriel Landeskog, J.T. Compher and Valeri Nichushkin also lit the lamp. Overall on the season, Colorado has six skaters that have potted 10 or more goals, tied with the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets for the most 10-goal scorers in the league.
GRUBI HITS 100 WINS
Philipp Grubauer made 13 saves to record the 100th win of his career, joining Thomas Greiss (139) as the only German-born goaltenders to reach the century mark.
This season, he has already set new career highs with 21 wins and five shutouts, the most clean sheets by an Avalanche netminder since 2014-15 when Semyon Varlamov also had five. Grubauer has 11 victories since the beginning of March, which sets a new franchise record for wins in a single month.
"He's been amazing for us, and tonight was no different. When we had breakdowns he was there to close the door and make the big saves when we needed," said head coach Jared Bednar postgame. "He hasn't been all that busy on most nights, but it's not just the quantity of shots that makes a goaltender good. When we need a big save at key times of games or penalty kills, he has been there for us all year and tonight was no different.
"I thought he was outstanding. Breakaway save in the first, breakaway save in the second, those are big saves, especially in a close game. That was a tight hockey game for the most part until we sort of busted it open in the third period, so I thought he did an excellent job for us."
FANS ON THE HORIZON
The Avalanche will have fans in its building for the first time since last March when it hosts frontline workers for its outing against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. The first game with ticketed fans will be on Friday when the Avs open a back-to-back set against the St. Louis Blues.
"The guys have been talking about it, we've talked about it as a coaching staff, we haven't addressed it as a team yet, but our guys are excited, like I said last week when we got the news," Bednar said of the incoming spectators. "We've played in some buildings now with fans and it just makes a huge difference even if it's just a few thousand fans. Looking to hopefully get the building packed at some point soon, hopefully that's a possibility, so we are pretty excited about that."
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
The Avalanche is now 11-2-3 in March, equaling the franchise record for wins in a single month set in February 2020 (11-3-1), March 2007 (11-1-2) and January 2004 (11-1-2-2). The Avs' 25 points in March are tied with Pittsburgh for the most this month.
Colorado extended its season-high point streak to 11 games (9-0-2), one outing shy of the longest point streak of any team this season (New York Islanders, 12 games, Feb. 22-March 14).
The Avs are 8-0-1 in their last nine games on home ice and are 14-4-2 at home in 2020-21, the second-most wins and points (30) at home by any team this season.
Colorado finished with 48 shots on goal, the eighth time this season the club has recorded 40 or more shots on net, the most such performances in the NHL. The Avalanche outshot the Ducks 48-15 and is a league-best 19-6-2 when outshooting its opponent this season.
The Avs were 2-for-2 on the penalty kill and have surrendered just three power-play goals in their last 11 games, going 30-for-33 (90.9 percent) in that span. Colorado's penalty kill ranks second overall this season (89-for-102, 87.3 percent).
Video: ANA@COL: Makar sets up Nichushkin to extend lead
Cale Makar finished with three points (three assists), his third three-point performance of the season, and posted a career-best plus-4 rating. Makar has recorded three or more assists in five career contests, requiring the fewest games (79) by a defenseman in NHL history to record five career regular-season games with three or more assists.
Gabriel Landeskog scored his 12th goal of the season and is tied with Joonas Donskoi for second on the team in goals. Landeskog's tally was his team-leading sixth power-play goal of the season. It was also the game-winner, his fifth of the campaign, tied with Mikko Rantanen for the team lead.
Video: ANA@COL: Landeskog deflects Makar's shot for PPG
Valeri Nichushkin tallied two points (one goal, one assist) for his fourth multi-point outing of the season, matching his career best for most multi-point performances in a campaign (also: 2015-16 and 2013-14).