The Colorado Avalanche are sitting at the top of the NHL, having worked their way past the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Sunday.
Coach Jared Bednar decided Saturday that goaltender Jonas Johansson would get a second straight start in Anaheim. He was backed up by Devan Dubnyk, who was acquired in a trade with the San Jose Sharks on Saturday and drove down to meet the team.
Dubnyk is the presumptive No. 2, but Johansson (24 saves) is improving with every start, Bednar said. Workhorse Philipp Grubauer’s Sunday got to be an actual day of rest.
“It allowed Gruby to kind of not have to think about the game today, give him a little bit of a mental break as well,” Bednar said. “He went out and put a little bit of work this morning, (as) he will tomorrow morning. He’ll get the start tomorrow night.”
Jamie Drysdale ended Johansson’s bid for a second straight shutout with 7:23 left in regulation. His shot ricocheted off Colorado’s Cale Makar’s leg. That got the Ducks within a goal, but it only seemed to motivate the Avalanche to close the game out.
The puck luck evened out as Ryan Graves’ first goal of the season resembled Drysdale’s. The Avalanche defenseman threw one on net that hit multiple Ducks on the way in.
The net had finally opened up in another strong performance from Anaheim goaltender John Gibson (33 saves). Makar put a pass in front of Nathan MacKinnon as he pinched in for the final score.
“We had a little talk today that we needed to step up with our speed and our skating,” Johansson said.
“I think everyone on the team did their best today. It’s good we came up with a win.”
Andre Burakovsky found the puck in a tangle of legs in front of the net and scored the first goal.
Colorado had a minute of 5-on-3 and circled until the final eight seconds. Gabriel Landeskog deflected in a MacKinnon shot for a two-goal lead 6:35 into the second period. Landeskog had a three-point night (one goal, two assists) and became the eighth player in franchise history — plus the second in his 2011 draft class — to reach 500 points.
“One of the areas in the last couple years that he’s really improved on — and it was already a strength of his — was his net-front play and his net-front presence, being able to pick up goals, whether it’s rebounds (or) deflections,” Bednar said.
Neither game could be described as pretty, but the Avalanche didn’t allow the West Division’s last-place team to trip them up. Colorado became the first to 60 NHL standings points.
“I’m pretty happy with the road trip,” Bednar said.
“We’re in a good spot here and there’s still a lot of hockey to be played down the stretch.”