DENVER - The sound of the goal horn was replaced with thumps and crashes.
The NHL’s two most consistently productive offenses traded finesse for physicality after Colorado defenseman Jacob MacDonald was stretchered off the ice. Andre Burakovsky had both elements covered and scored his first career hat trick in Sunday’s 3-2 Avalanche win over the Florida Panthers.
MacDonald turned with the puck to the right of Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper and came around the curve of the boards. Ryan Lomberg was waiting shoulder-first with a dangerous but unpenalized hit. MacDonald was examined by medical staff and ultimately carried out. The team later tweeted that MacDonald was “alert, responsive and has full movement."
“It’s tough to continue on after something like that happens, but we stuck together and hung in there and that’s the type of comradery and teammates that we have,” fellow blueliner Erik Johnson said. “That’s what we needed, and we came together and found a way to win for Jake.”
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who had the puck at center ice when the play was whistled dead, turned around and immediately dropped the gloves with Lomberg.
The tone at Ball Arena changed. Samuel Girard knocked Carter Verhaeghe to the ice near the Panthers’ bench. Valeri Nichushkin and Burakovsky each laid a thunderous, legal hit in the span of a few minutes.
“Love the response,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.
“I like the fact that we're ready to do that, especially after you see one of your teammates go down.”
Bednar elaborated that “everything’s going good” with MacDonald. He hadn’t seen him yet.
Johnson said he thought the hit might have warranted a charging penalty.
“That’s the stuff that makes you sick to your stomach when it happens to any teammate or opponent,” Johnson said.
“He kind of targeted him in a tough position. But it happens fast. Unfortunately, those hits are still part of our game. It’s getting less and less, but it seems like – what is that, two now in a week that you’ve seen guys stretchered off, knocked out cold? That’s not good for our game.”
Burakovsky broke a scoreless tie with 23 seconds left in the second period. Nathan MacKinnon barreled into the zone with the puck, Mikko Rantanen flung it backwards and Burakovsky sniped it in from the hashmarks on the power play.
Burakovsky, filling in for injured Gabriel Landeskog on the top line, doubled the lead with another set-up from Rantanen in the third. He finished his hat trick with assists to MacKinnon and Rantanen.
After 13 two-goal games, Burakovsky finally had his third.
“In the game I don’t think about it, and (not) really outside either,” Burakovsky said. “I’ve always just been thinking if it happens, it happens, and if not, if not. I’ve just tried to play the right game.”
It was a tight-checking game for the Avalanche, who had dropped seven goals in three straight games. Dogpile followed dogpile in front of and involving Kuemper (29 saves) as the Avalanche tried to make the one-goal lead stretch. Johnson threw his body around and stopped a puck that got past Kuemper.
“I think that shows a lot of character from our team, that we can stick up for each other and sacrifice ourselves for the win,” Burakovsky said. “I think it was a great job by everyone today.”
Erik Johnson’s frequent collaborator Jack Johnson took a puck to face in the first period. It took several minutes to clean up the blood, which even got on Kuemper’s pads. Jack Johnson returned with a large gash over his mouth and still played 16:55.
“Most guys go down with just a little stick to the face and he just stayed up and continued on,” Erik Johnson said. “That says a lot about how tough he is.”
Francouz returns, Landeskog out
Goaltender Pavel Francouz backed up Kuemper after being recalled from the Colorado Eagles (AHL) earlier Sunday. He was injured in the preseason. He didn't face a single in-game shot for Colorado in 2020-21 due to hip surgeries.
Francouz went 3-1-0 in his stint with the Eagles with a 1.52 goals-against average, a .945 save percentage and a shutout. Francouz’s last regular-season NHL start came March 11, 2020 - the last game before the league paused the season because of the pandemic.
Avalanche captain Landeskog is set to miss about two weeks with a lower-body concern. The winger has 9 goals and 18 assists through 22 games.
Center Nazem Kadri missed a second game with a lower-body injury. He was described as “day-to-day" by Bednar on Saturday.