The Colorado Avalanche returned to Ball Arena in Denver Thursday night from a two-game trip to Finland, and a four-day break, to host the Nashville Predators. It was the first game on home ice for Colorado since Oct. 21, 20 days ago.
After getting down 1-0 early in the first period, the Avalanche rattled off five unanswered goals in the first and second periods, putting the game out of reach. The club had 22 shots on goal in the first period alone, the most shots they have had in any single period so far this season. They emerged victorious with a 5-3 win, improving their record to 7-4-1. Here are three takeaways from the game.
Tribute to Peter McNab
Long-time Avalanche color analyst, and 14-year NHL veteran, Peter McNab passed away Sunday night (Nov. 6), losing a year-long battle with cancer. The Avalanche paid tribute to McNab prior to the game, encouraging fans to remember him “with a moment of appreciation, not silence,” getting the nearly 18,000 in attendance on their feet as they celebrated his life.
A relentless power forward with four different teams, McNab’s career is often best remembered for his altercation with fans in the stands at Madison Square Garden when he was a member of the Boston Bruins. In his 14 seasons, he notched an impressive 813 points in 955 games, the lion-share of those coming while wearing a Bruins sweater. Heading into this season, he ranked 11th on the list of all-time Bruins goal scorers.
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After working as a broadcaster for the New Jersey Devils, McNab returned to Colorado, where he had played college hockey for the University of Denver Pioneers, to join the Avalanche broadcast team for its inaugural season in 1995, and stayed with the club through the start of this season. He also provided color commentary for ice hockey events at three different Olympic Games.
Altitude TV, the broadcast home of the Avalanche, did tributes to McNab throughout the game. His longtime partner, play-by-play announcer Mark Moser, called the game on his own.
Rantanen Continues Torrid Pace
Mikko Rantanen had two goals and an assist in the game. The 26-year-old Finnish forward now has six goals and four assists in the team’s last four games. His 19 total points (nine goals and 10 assists) are tied for eighth in the league.
Rantanen’s first goal, which tied the game at one, was a one-timer from the right face-off circle off a beautiful feed from teammate Nathan MacKinnon. It was his second power play goal this season. His second was off a blue line-to-blue line pass from MacKinnon on a well-timed exit from the penalty box, giving Rantanen a breakaway. He fired a hard wrist shot that went off the glove of Predators’ goaltender, Kevin Lankinen, and into the net.
While it’s a silly exercise this early in the season, it’s fun to note that Rantanen is on pace for 61 goals and 68 assists for 129 total points.
Bowers & Ranta
Shane Bowers and Sampo Ranta were called up from the Avalanche’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Colorado Eagles. While neither player had an impact on the game, it was a difficult night for Bowers, as he left the contest with an upper-body injury late in the first period and did not return. The young forward was hit hard deep in the Predators’ zone by Tanner Jeannot. The hit was away from the puck, but there was no call on the play.
The game was Bowers’ long-awaited NHL debut. A first-round pick (28th overall) by the Ottawa Senators in 2017, the 23-year-old was the last player from the first round in his draft class to log time in an NHL game. He was also a key piece in the blockbuster trade that sent then-Avalanche star Matt Duchene to the Senators. Bowers was off to a fast start with the Eagles this year, with six points in the team’s first 10 games.
For Ranta, it was his 11th NHL game, with all 10 previous games coming last season. He had two shots on goal in 5:36 time on ice (TOI). He has yet to score a point in the NHL, but in 10 games with the Eagles this year, the 22-year-old forward has one goal and one assist.
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Valeri Nichushkin, who had been listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, is reported to have undergone surgery on his ankle and will miss an additional month of play. Defenders Bowen Byram (week-to-week) and Samuel Girard (day-to-day) were also absent from the lineup with lower body injuries. The three players join Gabriel Landeskog and Darren Helm on the injured list, both of whom remain sidelined.
MacKinnon had two more assists in the contest. His 18 assists so far this season are tied with Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers for the league lead. The native of Halifax, Nova Scotia had eight shots on goal in the game, several of them quality chances, but was stymied by Lankinen at every turn.
Former University of Denver Pioneer Logan O’Connor had two goals in the game. He now has five goals in 12 games this season. He had eight goals in 81 games last season.
Avalanche netminder Alexandar Georgiev made 32 saves on 35 shots.
The Avalanche are back in action Saturday night when they welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to Mile High City.