David Zalubowski, The Associated Press
For the second time in less than a week, the Avalanche defeated the Florida Panthers, this time 2-1 at the Pepsi Center.
Joe Sakic assesses his Avalanche team nearly six weeks after Matt Duchene trade https://t.co/DWdXKoXvMD via @denverpost #Avs
Nathan MacKinnon. Had both goals for Colorado. Semyon Varlamov. Avs goalie had 32 saves. Aleksander Barkov. Logged 21:59 and had a shorthanded goal for the Panthers.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
University of Denver sophomore forwards Henrik Borgstrom and Liam Finlay attended the game. Borgstrom is a 2016 first-round draft pick of the Panthers and Finlay is good buddies with Avalanche rookie forward Tyson Jost. Expect to see Borgstrom in an a Florida sweater as soon as this spring, following DU’s season, although his fondness of the college life could possibly keep him around through his junior year.
Tampa Bay, Saturday at the Pepsi Center, 7 p.m.
Great Nate. MacKinnon will represent the Avs at next month’s NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, Fla. That’s not yet official, but MacKinnon is Colorado’s best player and the league certainly wants the explosive center on display at Amalie Arena. Just a tremendous effort from the 22-year-old Thursday. He played a team-high 14:25 through two periods and 22:03 for the game. MacKinnon is reaching his extremely high ceiling and continues to lead the team in goals (13), assists (22) and points (35) in 31 games. The more he plays, the more dangerous the Avalanche becomes.
“Nate’s unbelievable right now. He’s a very skilled guy and I’m glad to have him on our team.” — Varlamov
Game story, final version: Avalanche defeats Panthers behind Nathan MacKinnon’s two goals https://t.co/mEsiKtn3aG via @denverpost #Avs
Growing pains. Rookie defenseman Sam Girard had the most glaring turnover of the game in what led to Barkov’s shorthanded goal that tied it 1-1, but the Avs won’t lose faith in the 19-year-old. Girard’s ice time has gone from top-two minutes (20-plus) to a season-low 9:16 on Saturday in Florida to 11:14 in Game 2 against the Panthers on Thursday. “He’s a young guy and playing in a special situation on the power play,” coach Jared Bednar said of Girard. “We were slow on our change, too — I don’t know if you guys caught that — but guys were coming off the ice and we were slow to get on. He went back for it, was a little casual with it and a good player tracked him down and created the turnover … He was a little sleepy on that one (but) we bounced back from it.”
Powerless. Colorado’s power play went 0-of-3 and is now a combined 0-of-17 in the last five games. ‘Nuff said. The Avs gotta figure that one out — and soon. For the second straight game they only had to kill off one power play, but they need to generate some goals and confidence in man-advantage situations to take over games.
Turning tables. The Avs have won three of their last four games, after losing four straight — their worst stretch of the season. Indeed, this team has a bounce-back ability that we never saw in 2016-17.
Captain Canada? Jost played just 12:19, second fewest among Avalanche forwards. The 19-year-old had the second assist on MacKinnon’s first goal and produced three shots, but I’m sensing he could be loaned to Hockey Canada for the World Junior Championship, and possibly serve as captain. I filed this story last week on the Avalanche suggesting he will remain in the NHL but I’m beginning to think GM Joe Sakic and company will change their minds. If Jost isn’t playing major minutes, perhaps loaning him to the WJC could aid in his development. We will see; I believe the Avs have until Monday to decide.
Jared Bednar after Nathan MacKinnon heroics in 2-1 victory over Florida #Avs https://t.co/dUPadnPQL3