Canucks Avalanche Hockey

Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin, left, celebrates his goal with defensemen Samuel Girard and Devon Toews, right, during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

With an ease that’s escaped them through 10 games, the Colorado Avalanche put a touchdown on the board against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. Mikko Rantanen handled the extra point in a 7-1 victory at Ball Arena.

Valeri Nichushkin hadn’t played since the season opener, missing nine games with an upper-body injury. He was immediately reinserted into the power play. Nichushkin hung back at the blue line to avoid being caught offside and served as the trailer on the play, following his shot into the net 3:18 into the game.

“Just his ability to play the right way and track the puck and his habits — it makes a big difference,” coach Jared Bednar said.

Alex Newhook, who also hadn’t played for the Avalanche since the season opener, earned the secondary assist. He was recalled from the Colorado Eagles (AHL) on Tuesday.

“A lot more assertive, for sure,” Bednar said. “Quicker in all areas. Defensively, offensively, jumping into plays, trying to make an impact.”

The Avalanche were circling when Gabriel Landeskog drifted to the side of the cage. Cale Makar found an open lane to him and Landeskog put the puck in a half-open net to make it 2-0. Makar had two assists in his own return from injury.

Bowen Byram poked loose a turnover at the blue line. Rantanen spun and fired in Colorado’s third goal without glancing up at the net.

Later in the first period, Byram absorbed an elbow to the lower face from Canucks captain Bo Horvat. Byram did not return. At the time of the contact, Byram was tied for third in NHL rookie scoring (3 goals, 5 assists) and consistently in Colorado’s top two defensive pairings.

He never returned to the team last season after sustaining a concussion in March.

“They’ll reevaluate him in the morning,” Bednar said. “Just see what the symptoms are and if he has any.”

Logan O’Connor was the gift-giver and the recipient on the first two second-period goals.

First, O’Connor tapped in a bouncing Samuel Girard feed at the back door. He then went in on a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Darren Helm and the veteran finished it off.

In his second game of the season following offseason surgery, Devon Toews scored with six seconds left in the second period for a 6-0 lead. Rantanen scored a power-play goal, credited to him a day later, after Vancouver’s Nils Hoglander ended Darcy Kuemper’s (21 saves) shutout bid. The Avalanche finished 2-for-3 on the power play.

“It was dangerous enough and it made an impact,” Bednar said.

“I would say today we put the whole package together. It reminds me a little bit of the Tampa game. So we’ve done it a couple of times now, but the picture should be getting clearer and clearer for our players that this is the way we have to play in order to have success. I think they’re buying into that.”

The Canucks sat second-to-last in the Pacific Division going into the game. Thursday’s opponents had matching 4-5-1 records in their past 10 games.

Colorado forward Nathan MacKinnon missed his first game of an expected “give or take three weeks,” per Bednar, of recovery time for a lower-body injury. The largely healthy Avalanche managed fine without him.

“I think that was huge for us,” Toews said. “Probably one of our most complete efforts of the year so far. Offensively, defensively. We were on tonight.”

Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon sidelined by injury, likely not back soon
Alex Newhook recalled, Nathan MacKinnon misses practice as Avalanche prepare to host Canucks
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