The Colorado Avalanche dropped a 6-2 result to the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year’s Eve at Ball Arena. Colorado is now 19-13-3 on the season.
For the Avalanche, J.T. Compher (1G, 1A) and Devon Toews scored. Nathan MacKinnon returned to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 5 after being sidelined with an upper-body injury. The game also marked the first time since Dryden Hunt (now with Toronto) and Denis Malgin, since the pair were in a trade with the Avalanche and Toronto on Dec. 19. In net, Alexandar Georgiev made 19 saves on 24 shots through 35:24 minutes, while Jonas Johansson made seven saves on as many shots in relief as he played 23:15 minutes.
For the Maple Leafs, Mitch Marner, Pierre Engvall, Auston Matthews (1G, 1A) and T.J. Brodie scored at even strength, while Michael Bunting added a power play strike and an empty-net goal. John Tavares and William Nylander each handed out two assists. Between the pipes, Matt Murray made 26 saves on 28 shots.
Colorado put forth a solid effort against Toronto, but the Leafs managed to capitalize on their chances whereas the Avalanche couldn’t do the same.
The Avalanche fell to a 2-1 score following the first period of play where they were outshot 13-6 and neither team was able to convert on the one respective chances they each received on the power play.
Toronto took a 2-0 lead just under midway in the opening frame with goals from Marner and Engvall in the span of less than three minutes.
Marner scored the game’s icebreaker at 6:51 as he collected a pass in the neutral zone from his linemate Calle Jarnkrok. Marner showcased his smooth stickhandling as he deked past Andreas Englund and sniped a low shot to the far blocker side of Georgiev.
Toronto capitalized with its second strike at 9:27. Georgiev had denied an initial shot in the slot from David Kampf, but Engvall spun with the rebound and fired his shot into the net to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead.
After failing to convert on the power play – and subsequently killing off a penalty almost immediately after their unsuccessful man advantage – the Avalanche trimmed their deficit down 2-1 at 17:28. On a rush play, the Avalanche’s second line passed the puck up ice from Evan Rodrigues to Logan O’Connor to Compher. The centerman skated into the slot and wired a wrist shot to the far side past Murray’s blocker, which also marked Compher’s second goal in as many games.
The majority of the second period was tightly checked and a hard battle between the two clubs – with the Avalanche outshooting the Leafs 16-12 – but Toronto pulled out to a 5-2 lead heading into the final intermission as they scored an early power-play goal as well as two late strikes within the span of 24 seconds.
Colorado went to the box just eight seconds into the second period as Ben Meyers was called for slashing. The Maple Leafs power play (14.3%) converted 34 seconds into the period as John Tavares tried to jam the puck in at the near post, but Georgiev poked the puck out to the slot and Bunting put it away to give Toronto a 3-1 lead.
The Avalanche continued to press despite the two-goal deficit and were successful as they made it a one-goal game at 9:45. Malgin threaded a pass across the seam for Compher, who centered the puck back to the net front. Toews got his stick on the feed and the puck deflected off the skate of Matthews and past Murray to reduce Colorado’s deficit down 3-2.
The Leafs were able to extend their lead with two goals in the span of 24 seconds late in the period as they capitalized on two poor defensive plays by the Avalanche. The first occurred as Malgin attempted to clear a puck out of Colorado’s zone from the lower left wall, but the puck went straight to Nylander where the winger centered it to Matthews. From the slot, centerman took his space and then fired the puck past Georgiev at 15:00.
On the next shift off the center-ice faceoff, MacKinnon attempted to rim the puck out of the Avalanche zone. The puck zipped out to the wall where Brodie fired a one timer past Georgiev from the point to make it 5-2 Toronto at 15:24.
Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar subsequently replaced Georgiev in net with Johansson.
The Leafs were able to lock the game down for the most part in the third period – despite a point shot from Cale Makar that hit the post – and keep the Avalanche off the board, while
At 16:11, Bunting put away an empty-net goal to extend Colorado’s lead 6-2.
- Compher (1G, 1A) scored his seventh goal of the season and second goal in as many games. The centerman also extended his point streak to four games where he’s totaled six points (3G, 3A) in that span.
- Toews buried his third goal of the season.
- MacKinnon returned to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 5 after being sidelined with an upper-body injury. The centerman skated alongside Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen and totaled 22:19 minutes, fired off three shots, threw one hit and was minus-three.
- Malgin faced the Maple Leafs for the first time since being traded to Colorado on Dec. 19. The centerman assisted on Toews’ goal and logged 11:24 minutes.
- Georgiev made his 26th start of the season.
- Johansson played in his first NHL game since last season. With the Colorado Eagles the Swedish netminder posted a 7-5-0 record. Against Toronto,
- Colorado finished the game 0-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
- Valeri Nichushkin (lower body), Pavel Francouz (lower body) and Martin Kaut (week-to-week) were scratches for the Avalanche.
The Avalanche conclude their three-game homestand as they host Vegas on Monday night. The puck drops between the Avs and Golden Knights at 7 p.m. MT.