DENVER — Rookie Nathan MacKinnon scored at 8:01 of the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and the Colorado Avalanche went on to defeat the Canadiens 4-1 on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center. Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj, who was making his first start against his former team, made a skate save on Gabriel Landeskog, but MacKinnon scored on the rebound. The loss left the Canadiens at 8-7, while the Avalanche is off to a franchise-best 12-1 start to the season.
Killer defence: The Avalanche has the best penalty-killing record in the NHL, but its string of successful penalty kills ended at 22 when Brendan Gallagher scored at 3:39 of the third period to tie the game 1-1. Jean-Sébastien Giguère made the save on P.K. Subban’s shot from the blue line, but Gallagher scored on the rebound. The Avalanche had two power plays, but the Canadiens — who rank seventh in the NHL on the PK — killed them both.
Breaking through: Landeskog broke up the goaltending duel between Budaj and Giguère when he scored at 11:14 of the second period. The Avalanche took possession of the puck when Douglas Murray lost it between his skates and Marc-André Cliche sent Landeskog into the clear. The Avalanche captain connected with a slapshot off the rush that found the short-side top corner on Budaj’s blocker side.
Goalie numbers: Budaj, who also surrendered an insurance goal to Ryan O’Reilly after Subban gave up the puck behind the Montreal net, made 27 saves and suffered his first loss in three starts this season. The loss also ended his 10-game winning streak dating to last season. Giguère had 30 stops as he improved to 4-0. P.A. Parenteau added an empty-net goal.
Best Foote forward: Former Avalanche defenceman Adam Foote saw his No. 52 retired in a ceremony before the game. He is the fifth Colorado player to be honoured, joining Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, Raymond Bourque and Peter Forsberg. In its previous incarnation as the Quebec Nordiques, the franchise honoured J.C. Tremblay, Michel Goulet, Peter Stastny and Marc Tardif.
Injury update: Max Pacioretty returned to the Canadiens’ lineup after missing eight games with a strained hamstring and logged 21 minutes of ice time. He also led the Canadiens with six shots on goal. Michael Blunden was scratched to make room for Pacioretty in the lineup and was returned to the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday morning. Avalanche forward Alex Tanguay left the game in the second period with a knee injury.
Much ado about nothing: There were two fights before the contest was five minutes old and they had absolutely zero bearing on the game. Ryan White took on Cody McLeod before George Parros traded punches with Patrick Bordeleau, who kept in shape during last season’s lockout by playing with Cornwall in the Quebec goon league.
What’s next? There’s another reunion game on tap this week as Jaroslav Halak returns to the Bell Centre Tuesday with the St. Louis Blues (7:30 p.m., TSN, RDS, TSN Radio 690). The Canadiens travel to Ottawa on Thursday and wrap up the week with a home game against the New York Islanders on Saturday.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette