The only Avalanche position that hasn’t been injured by injury in 25 games is goaltending – thankfully, if only for the sake of a delicious rematch.
The last time Alexander Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin met, they faced each other for three periods, in overtime, and then on October 25 at Madison Square Garden. With 44 saves and a decisive penalty shot denial, Georgiev outplayed the keeper he used to support. So of course, they found themselves in the same shootout matchup on Friday night, with Shesterkin prevailing this time in a 2-1 loss to the Avalanche against the Rangers on Friday.
Georgiev saved 28 shots. Shesterkin stopped 41, including an Avalanche playoff in overtime. His share of saves was more dazzling this time around, but Artemi Panarin scored the winner after Mikko Rantanen and JT Compher couldn’t convert their shootout opportunities for the Avalanche.
Avs (13-10-2) celebrated the return of winger Valeri Nichushkin, who joined the top line along with Mikko Rantanen and Alex Newhook. The last time he played was that thrilling win in New York, coincidentally. Then he disappeared with a poorly timed ankle injury, disrupting his blistering start with seven goals in as many games. The Avalanche lost 1-0 in the first game without him.
Nichushkin quickly made sure his comeback was noticeable, knocking out Shesterkin to help Rantanen’s one-timer to give Colorado a 1-0 lead at 14:38 of the first period. Nichushkin played 22 minutes of ice time.
He’s the first of what Colorado hopes will be many reinforcements on the way by the new year. Forwards Evan Rodrigues and Darren Helm skated with the team in red jerseys without contact Friday morning. Artturi Lehkonen also practiced and is set to return as he jumps through the hoops of concussion protocol.
For now, however, coach Jared Bednar’s task is to work with what he has. Colorado’s AHL recalls seemed to be buzzing with more energy than they had in any other game since injuries started piling up.
Rookie Jean-Luc Foudy relished opportunities to accelerate on open ice. He skated confidentially and created several dangerous scoring chances, including one where he stole the puck in the offensive zone and attempted to pass Charles Hudon at the last second. There was no connection, but Hudon made his own deft move 10 seconds later to set up a close goal. Ben Meyers also had a golden scoring opportunity, two nights after being on the ice for two goals conceded in his return to the NHL.
But as the game progressed into overtime, a third-period scoring chance from New York was one that remained in the air. Cale Makar disturbed Barclay Goodrow from behind as Goodrow headed for Georgiev’s net with a breakaway. He went down on the ice, but no penalty shot was awarded as Makar returned to the bench, his shift over.
The referees didn’t call much. Both teams had only one powerplay, a breath of fresh air for the Avs after picking up 19 penalties in the last four games.