DENVER (AP)Logan O’Connor and Mikko Rantanen each scored twice Thursday and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Nashville Predators 5-3 on a night when the team paid tribute to longtime color analyst Peter McNab following his death earlier this week.
O’Connor had two goals in 1:25 during a four-goal second period that helped the Avalanche take control. The team showed few signs of jet lag in its return from Finland, where Colorado recently completed a two-game sweep of Columbus as part of the NHL Global Series.
”We picked up the pace a lot,” Rantanen said.
The Avalanche played with heavy hearts in memory of McNab, the former NHL player turned broadcaster who died Sunday at 70. He revealed in late summer of 2021 that he was battling cancer.
The team showed a video tribute and held a moment of appreciation for him.
McNab was a familiar face and voice of the Avalanche ever since the club moved to Denver before the 1995-96 season. A fan held up a sign that read, ”We miss you, Peter.” On the Altitude TV broadcast, team executive Joe Sakic said: ”He loved the game so much. He was a storyteller.”
Evan Rodrigues also scored and Nathan MacKinnon had two assists to go with his eight shots for the Avalanche. Alexandar Georgiev finished with 32 saves to move to 7-1-1 this season.
”It was OK,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said of his team’s performance. ”We had some guys that played outstanding tonight. MacKinnon was phenomenal. Logan O’Connor, phenomenal. Mikko had a pretty good night finishing.
”We capitalized on our chances in this game and they didn’t. That was the difference.”
Eeli Tolvanen, Ryan Johansen and Roman Josi had goals for the Predators. Kevin Lankinen stopped 30 shots.
After trailing by four, the Predators cut it to 5-3 early in the third period as Colorado resorted to a more conservative style of play. Nashville pulled Lankinen for an extra skater with around two minutes left, but couldn’t score.
”Against teams like that, with any team in this league, you go down like that, it’s nearly impossible to come back,” Johansen said. ”We need more. You can always do better. You can always work harder, but there’s more there. There’s more from this group.”
This was the first of four meetings between the teams – all before Christmas. The Avalanche swept the Predators in the first round of the playoffs last season on their way to hoisting the Stanley Cup.
O’Connor provided a big lift for a banged-up Avalanche team that’s missing quite a bit of scoring punch with captain Gabriel Landeskog (knee) and Valeri Nichushkin (ankle) sidelined. They’re also without defensemen Bowen Byram and Samuel Girard due to lower-body injuries.
MacKinnon assisted on both of Rantanen’s scores, including one on a power play in the first period to tie the game and the second with a breakaway pass as Rantanen raced out of the penalty box.
The speedy MacKinnon became the third Avalanche player to reach 20 points in 12 games or less. He joined Rantanen (11 games in 2018-19) and Peter Forsberg (12 games in 2003-04).
”He’s been great,” Bednar said. ”Those are the guys that are driving the bus and we need them to be good. Things are thin and we need those guys to be sharp every night. That’s the kind of pressure we put on them.”
Colorado center Shane Bowers made his NHL debut. Bowers, a first-round draft pick by Ottawa in 2017, was part of a three-team deal that sent former Avalanche standout Matt Duchene to the Senators on Nov. 5, 2017. Duchene later signed with Nashville.
Bowers nearly scored on his first shot. He played 1:46 in the first period before leaving the ice holding his arm. He didn’t return. There was no update from Bednar.
”He was waiting his whole life to get here to play this game and he gets hurt a couple seconds into his third shift,” Bednar said. ”You have to feel for the kid.”
Predators: Host the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Avalanche: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
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