Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon after incredible battle with Oilers: “That game means a little more”

EDMONTON — The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers have been two of the best teams in the Western Conference for years. They’ve been two of the best teams in the league since mid-November after a bit of a wonky start for both.

In their first meeting of the season Saturday night, they delivered an instant classic, with Artturi Lehkonen’s last-second buzzer-beater in overtime the difference in a 3-2 win.

“Really fun. I mean, a lot of games, you’re just trying to win games to move up in the standings,” Avs star Nathan MacKinnon said. “That game means a little more, I think. It’s a huge challenge and we haven’t seen them all year.

“You’re wondering how good they are and … they’re really good, it turns out.”

The Avalanche is one of the best teams in the NHL and expects to win the Stanley Cup. There have been a few times this season when an observer can tell by the way Avs players and coach Jared Bednar speak about an opponent, either before but especially after they’ve played them, that there’s an extra level of respect behind their words.

Colorado knew Edmonton was a talented team with great players. The two clubs met in the 2022 Western Conference Final. These two teams were among the top preseason favorites, but the Avs lost five of seven, including a few in ugly fashion in the first month while the Oilers started 2-9-1.

Both of these clubs are significantly better now. They’ve gotten relatively healthy. Colorado traded for four new players before the trade deadline, while Edmonton added three.

This was the type of game that showed why all of the top teams in the West tried to add to their already strong teams. This was a different level of hockey, even from a few weeks ago.

“Two top teams going at it,” MacKinnon said. “I thought that was one of our best games of the season, from the start all the way to the end. I thought we really took over the second and it was pretty even in the third, but I felt like we deserved that one.”

The first period was played at a furious pace, about as close to what it’s like in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a regular-season tilt can get. The following two and the overtime weren’t far off from it.

These are two of the best offensive teams in the NHL, with star power galore, but it was some of the defensive plays that were made by players up and down both lineups that made this game special. There was so little room to make the typical fancy plays, but guys on both sides dug in and found ways to create chances even with both sides trying to suffocate the other.

MacKinnon and Connor McDavid had some moments. MacKinnon hit a post, then created the game-winning goal with a terrific play in the final seconds of overtime. He called it a lucky play. The replay showed how great it was.

McDavid was terrifying nearly every time he was on the ice. Whenever an Avs defenseman was able to knock the puck away from him, or prevent him from touching it felt like a big moment.

Neither superstar factored into the scoring for 64 minutes and 59 seconds, and yet it was still a showcase game for how impactful and noticeable they are, even with other world-class players on the same ice sheet. There were too many high-end skill plays to count, when even just getting the puck out of danger at times required one.

Corey Perry collected his 900th point without a stick in his hand, kicking the puck to a teammate. Sean Walker scored two goals and nearly had a third. Lehkonen made multiple “wow” passes, including one to set up Walker.

Casey Middelstadt looked very comfortable, making plays both with the puck and without.

“What a trade,” MacKinnon said of Walker’s involvement so far. “He’s been rock solid. All four guys have come in and made a huge difference. (Middelstadt) with the huge pass to (Walker), (Yakov Trenin) and (Brandon Duhaime) have been awesome depth guys. We’re really excited about everybody.”

Both goaltenders were great. Depth players on both sides made key impacts.

And we get to see these two teams slug it out at least two more times this season. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if one or both are still playing when the Western Conference Final begins.

“I thought it was a great hockey game,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “I don’t know what else you could ask for from a hockey game than watching that one tonight.”

Want more Avalanche news? Sign up for the Avalanche Insider to get all our NHL analysis.

Popular Articles