The final score resembled a playoff game. The knuckleheaded moves, however, exposed it for what it was — an exhibition game, and the first time the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild had faced another team since March.
Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog banged in a rebound during a 5-on-3 early in the second period and it held up after eight more penalty calls, including a high-sticking double minor, as the Avalanche won 3-2 in their only exhibition game before round-robin play begins Sunday.
Rather than a worrying sign, Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri suggested the extra special teams practice might be a “blessing in disguise.”
After all, it was just a warm-up.
“I don’t see ourselves taking that many penalties when the games really count,” Kadri said.
“It’s a bit of a bizarre situation and guys just needed time to get back into the rhythm.”
During the national anthem, players from both teams scattered across the blue lines in what Kadri called a “moment of solidarity” as the country struggles to address racial inequality. He stood with teammate Pierre-Édouard Bellemare and Wild players Matt Dumba and Jordan Greenway at the forefront, hands on each other’s shoulders.
Kadri referenced efforts to make the sport more diverse and called on the NHL to be more vocal.
“From the league standpoint, I think we’d maybe like to see a little more acknowledgement and have them address the situation,” Kadri said. “And know that they stand with their players.”
Players usually line up by team for the anthems, but Tuesday the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins joined together. The Penguins clarified on Twitter that it was "to stand up against social injustice, racism and hate."
There were three goals in the first 4:47, then just two the rest of the way. Joonas Donskoi converted a long rebound 1:25 into the game but it was quickly nullified by Dumba’s shot under the armpit of Philipp Grubauer (18 saves).
Nathan MacKinnon netted a beauty, taking a Landeskog feed and cleanly beating Alex Stalock seconds after a power play expired. Eric Staal then corralled a puck that hit him in the midsection and deposited it into the net to make it 2-2.
Pavel Francouz and Devan Dubnyk entered the net for the Avalanche and Wild, respectively, midway through the game and neither allowed a goal.
Coach Jared Bednar praised the energy and said the consistently occupied penalty box could be attributed to players waiting around for months to play and needing to let out a bit of aggression. But he also echoed defenseman Ian Cole’s concerns that nothing but shinny hockey and scrimmages can lead to some bad habits.
“The guy is a little harder on the puck than what you expect him to be and gets a step on you,” Bednar said, which led to some grabbing and stick penalties the Avs need to clean up.
Bednar identified lackluster checking as an issue, leading to not enough sustained offensive zone time. The Avalanche were outshot 34-29.
He recognized that many teams were likely dealing with similar issues after a long layoff.
“We definitely had a little bit of rust that we had to shake off,” Kadri said.