One night after losing a third period lead to the Arizona Coyotes, the Avalanche scored a pair of third period goals to bury the Sharks in San Jose. The Avalanche hit a number of milestones tonight, breaking a multi-year losing streak in San Jose, scoring 4 power play goals for the first time in four years, and marking Nathan MacKinnon's 2nd career hattrick. Their biggest milestone, Jarome Iginla's 600th goal, is still looming despite a number of close chances for the future Hall of Famer.
The Avalanche earned a total of four power plays in the first period and scored twice with the man advantage. For the 9th consecutive game the Avalanche would strike first, with Nathan MacKinnon breaking his personal goal drought after a tic-tac-toe passing sequence on the power play. The Avalanche lead wouldn't last long, however, after a Jack Skille turnover created chaos in the Avalanche zone and gave Patrick Marleau a wide open seam to beat goaltender Calvin Pickard. Carl Soderberg restored the Avalanche lead late in the period when he deflected a Francois Beauchemin shot to the back of the net.
The Avalanche were thoroughly outplayed in the second period, but outstanding individual efforts from Matt Duchene and Calvin Pickard kept the team in the game. Matt Duchene finished a dominant possession shift down low in the Sharks zone with a spinning backhand goal to put the Avalanche up 3-1 early, while Calvin Pickard stopped 16 of 17 shots in the second period. Melker Karlsson would score for the Sharks, however, and send the Avalanche into their second intermission with a 3-2 lead.
Gabe Landeskog missed significant time in the second period after taking a slapshot to the face but retuned to the game in the third period.
In the third period the Avalanche saw two more power play opportunities and capitalized on both to put the Sharks away for good. Blake Comeau struck first, deflecting an Erik Johnson shot to the top shelf. The Sharks' Thomas Hertl would return the favor, beating Pickard with a low shot through the fivehole; a goal Pickard would probably like back in an otherwise sterling night. MacKinnon followed with his second power play goal of the night, a lightning fast snapshot from the left circle.
Jarome Iginla came within inches of netting his 600th goal on the Sharks empty net but was stopped by the skate of a Sharks' defenseman. Instead Nathan MacKinnon would finish his hattrick bid (the second of his career), with a long shot from his own zone.
Nathan MacKinnon - 3G, 2nd career hattrick
Carl Soderberg - 1G, 2A, 2 penalties drawn
Calvin Pickard - 35 Saves, .921 SV%
PLAY OF THE GAME
Matt Duchene's spinning backhand goal made its way to Sports Center's Top 10 before the final buzzer sounded in San Jose and for good reason:
Early in the third period with the San Jose Sharks buzzing in the Avalanche zone it looked like the Avalanche might surrender their second third period lead in two nights. Blake Comeau's power play goal midway through the third period gave the Avalanche some breathing room and settled the team down considerably. It was also the game winner.
BY THE NUMBERS
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"I thought Soderberg... it was probably Soderberg's best game since he joined the team. He was phenomenal. Sharp on the power play, he made good plays, really good in his own zone, 5-on-5 in our own end."
With Nashville and Minnesota both earning two points tonight the Avalanche don't gain ground on the playoffs but do keep pace with the rest of the Central Division. They sit four points out of a wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
The Avalanche return home for a New Years Eve showdown against the Chicago Blackhawks at 6:00 MST.