DENVER — The Avalanche won Thursday, 5-3, over the Nashville Predators at Ball Arena. Here are three takeaways from the game.
O’Connor heats up
The injury-plagued Avalanche need their depth forwards to produce with the absences of Darren Helm, Gabe Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin. One such player stepped up against Nashville — Logan O’Connor.
The third-line winger notched back-to-back goals in the second period. O’Connor tipped in a Devon Toews shot at the net and finished a solo breakaway with a clean backhand finish. The former DU star is riding a three-game points streak with four goals over that span. It’s clear that his role is expanding.
O’Connor’s blue-collar approach, winning puck battles with brute force and finishing tough chances, is exactly what the Avalanche need from their depth forwards. It’s a style of play that will allow Colorado to stay in contention until its injured forwards return to the lineup.
"Our line is doing a lot of good things," O'Connor said. "It starts in the d-zone for us. Checking well, using our speed and getting (the puck) on the forecheck. We're generating a lot of chances from our defense."
The highly anticipated NHL debut Thursday of Shane Bowers — the No. 28 overall NHL draft selection in 2017, acquired by Colorado in the Matt Duchene trade — finished on a sour note.
Bowers totaled just 1:46 of ice time, with one shot on goal, before leaving the game with an upper-body injury. He did not return. Bowers appeared in significant pain holding his left arm when he entered the tunnel. He has dealt with numerous career injuries that prevented his call-up to the Avalanche.
“Let’s face it. He’s had a tough go of it down there (in the AHL) for the last couple of years. Lots of injuries. In and out of the lineup. As soon as he gets his game in order, he seems to be out again with another injury,” coach Jared Bednar said before the game. “My message to him out of training camp was: ‘Go down there (to the AHL) and be an impact player.’ … He’s done that."
Bednar did not have a postgame update on Bowers' health status.
Colorado honored the memory of Peter McNab, the team’s long-time color analyst, before and throughout the game. McNab passed away recently following a cancer diagnosis in August. He was 70.
Every seat on press row at Ball Arena included a paper sign with McNab’s name and a carnation flower. Multiple video tributes played on the jumbotron, and the team held a “moment of celebration” before puck drop with loud fan cheering. Several in attendance brought homemade signs honoring McNab. It was an emotional night.
McNab, following a 14-year NHL playing career, was the first color analyst in Avalanche history when the team relocated to Colorado in 1995. His long-term replacement at Altitude TV, a Kroenke-owned regional sports network, is currently unknown.
What happened: The Avalanche trailed early before rattling off five unanswered goals. Colorado’s power-play unit scored twice. The Predators’ late comeback attempt fell short in a 5-3 Avs win.
Star of the game: Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen. He notched three points (two goals) in an explosive performance. Rantanen recorded his second goal of the night on a breakaway straight out of the penalty box, an extremely smart play.
Between the pipes: Avalanche No. 1 goaltender Alexandar Georgiev made 32-of-35 stops and allowed one power-play goal. Nashville started Kevin Lankinen in net and he made 30-of-35 saves on the night.
What’s next: The Avalanche (7-4-1) host the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m. Thursday inside Ball Arena.