Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon get 3 points apiece as Avs top Coyotes
Cale Makar was expected.
Returning to the Avalanche roster after missing two games with a lower-body injury, he pushed the Colorado offense into action after a dismal start to the second period. By the third, the missed chances were piling up against the defiant Coyotes, still more of a headache than they should be.
Makar continued to create and was rewarded with the game-winning goal on a 3-1 Avalanche rebound Friday night at Ball Arena. With Mikko Rantanen on Arizona goaltender Karel Vejmelka, Makar broke it between the circles, giving Colorado the lead with 13:19 left.
“I just try to get the pucks to the net,” Makar said. “I feel like we struggled to do this all night.”
The Avs (42-23-6) are back to within two points of the Central Division lead, with a game less against Dallas and Minnesota.
They battled the Coyotes with two power-play goals, including JT Compher’s insurance rebound with 8:43 left, and with three-point nights for Makar and Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon is posting an 11-game point streak, and Makar kind of caught fire even more. The defenseman has 18 points in his last eight games, bringing his rate per game for the season to 1.14.
“I don’t know if it’s just me individually,” Makar said, attributing his attacking success to the team’s push. “It’s just guys in general.”
“He’s modest,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “You see what he’s doing. He begins to take over the game.
After MacKinnon and Clayton Keller traded goals in the first period, the Avalanche had no shots on net for the first seven minutes of the second period. Then Makar buzzed the crossbar with a shot from the point, and it seemed to ignite and everyone around him.
Makar had a fantastic play with the puck moments later, weaving between the Coyotes behind the net, but Vejmelka made an even more remarkable sliding save on the wrap attempt.
The last piece of the period was unrecognizable from the slow start. On a shorthanded Avalanche, Valeri Nichushkin took the pocket of an opponent and escaped. He beat Vejmelka, but the puck hit the inside of the post. Andrew Cogliano was disallowed on a shorthanded run 15 seconds later.
The chances piled up before intermission, but Colorado was held up by stubborn defense and poor puck luck. It was still tied at intermission.
Nichushkin was playing on the first line with MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen in an attempt to deal with a Coyotes first line that Bednar deemed dangerous.
“I don’t think they get enough credit for the way they’ve been playing lately,” Bednar said. “I wanted to play MacKinnon against them tonight, so I wanted Val to be there. I also wanted to revive Val a bit.
Makar was still buzzing in the third, fresh off a chance to score on his own, when he finally broke through. Once the Avs fired another penalty, they were clear. They have scored at least one power play goal in 10 consecutive games, converting 41.9% of chances in that span.
Erik Johnson was also back in the Avalanche roster earlier than expected with a broken ankle, teaming up with Jack Johnson for the first time on Colorado’s third defensive pairing.
Makar’s injury was more of an insignificant adjustment last Saturday against Detroit, but he didn’t want to take any chances early in the week.
“Felt good. We just can’t take a break this year in terms of injuries and all that,” he said. “I just tweaked a little something. At this time of year, you have to be careful. It is obviously difficult. You want to play, but you don’t want to impose yourself. We have – hopefully – bigger games to come.
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