Avalanche Canucks Hockey

Vancouver Canucks' Andrei Kuzmenko (96) and Colorado Avalanche's Erik Johnson (6) vie for the puck in front of Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev (40) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 4-1, Friday night at Rogers Arena. Here are three takeaways from the win.

Let’s go streaking

What a difference a week can make. The once ailing Avs, after losing seven-of-eight games, have suddenly rattled off four consecutive victories. Strong starts are a big reason why with a 7-0 first period advantage for Colorado over the streak. Splitting up Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen on the top line has improved the offense. Goaltenders Alexandar Georgiev and Pavel Francouz have been phenomenal as well.

But Saturday night in Seattle is the real litmus test if the Avs’ resurgence is for real. The Pacific Division-leading Kraken are 9-2-0 over their last 11 games. Former Colorado forward Andre Burakovksy has emerged as the team’s leading point producer (13 goals and 25 assists). The Avalanche, playing on the second night of back-to-back games, have a stiff challenge ahead to get win No. 5 in a row.

Nichushkin scores

Forward Valeri Nichushkin entered Friday’s game with a goal scoring drought that extended all the way back to late October. He finally broke through against the Canucks. Nichushkin, aided with a 5-on-3 chance in the second period, scored at the net front on a nice feed from J.T. Compher. It’s considerable progress for a talented player still working his way back into form.

Nichushkin was cleared to play after “complications” with his surgically repaired ankle held him out for several weeks. But Nichushkin has still mostly lacked the trademark burst and power that made him such a dominant force last year. It’s fair to wonder if he’s playing in significant pain. The Avalanche need Nichushkin at full strength in their push toward the postseason.

Dude, where’s Makar?

A glimmer of positive injury news Friday turned out to be a mirage. Defenseman Cale Makar, after missing the Calgary win with an upper-body injury, was a full participant Friday at morning skate in Vancouver wearing a full-contact sweater. A positive sign. But the team still ruled Makar out before the game. It’s possible Makar returns Saturday versus the Kraken.

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Are his consecutive absences a reason for serious concern? The short answer: Not right now. Colorado found a way to absorb his absence, again, with Erik Johnson joining Devon Toews on the top pairing in Vancouver. It seems like the entire defensive corps has stepped up in Makar’s absence with more reliable checking and physicality on the puck. Just what the Avs needed.


GAMER BOX

Avalanche 4, Canucks 1

What happened: The Avs extended their winning streak to four games against a struggling Vancouver team.

What went right: The Canucks scored less than three minutes into the first period, but it was waived off because of high sticking. A hard-working Alex Newhook shift led to Colorado’s first goal. His strong forechecking in the neutral zone culminated with an assist to Andrew Cogliano. The Avalanche scored twice (Valeri Nichushkin and Mikko Rantanen) during 5-on-3 chances. Defenseman Brad Hunt added another goal, a slapper from distance, just before the second intermission. Colorado's penalty kill went 4/4.

What went wrong: Vancouver centerman Elias Pettersson prevented the shutout, finishing a slick backhand shot at the net-front with a goal in the second period. Cogliano was penalized three times in the game.

Between the pipes: Colorado’s Alexandar Georgiev made 28-of-29 saves. Vancouver’s Collin Delia stopped 26 of the Avalanche’s 30 shots on goal.

What’s next: The Avalanche (24-17-3) travel to face the Kraken (27-14-4), 8 p.m. Saturday (Altitude TV) at Climate Pledge Arena.

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