DENVER – Valeri Nichushkin scored his second goal of the game 2:45 into overtime, Philipp Grubauer made 26 saves and the Colorado Avalanche rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the struggling Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on Friday night.
Nichushkin circled around a defender and then slid a shot past John Gibson for the winner. The 6-foot-4 forward was mobbed by teammates in the corner.
“That was a beautiful goal,” said teammate Brandon Saad, who had a goal and two assists. “He was sharp tonight. Anytime he uses his big body and his speed, he’s tough to handle.”
Nichushkin and Saad helped pick up the scoring slack with Colorado missing star player Nathan MacKinnon, who was a late scratch. MacKinnon left in the third period Wednesday in San Jose after taking a hit to the head.
“This afternoon (MacKinnon) came down and wasn’t feeling good, so the protocol says he can’t play and we’re not going to put him out there and risk him getting hurt or something, or making it worse,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar explained. “I don’t know what that means as far as tomorrow or the next day, but I’m assuming he’s going to miss a couple games here.”
Trailing 2-0 in the second period, Nichushkin and Saad scored 2:37 apart to even things up. Both of their goals were in front of Gibson, who stopped 31 shots.
“We started off a little slow. It was a good bounce-back character win,“ Saad said. ”That definitely gets you feeling good in the right direction.”
Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg scored for Anaheim, which dropped to 0-6-3 over its last nine. The Ducks haven’t won since beating Vegas on Feb. 11.
“We’re doing a lot of good stuff,“ Silfverberg said. ”It’s just the last little bit that it takes to get two points in this league. Unfortunately, we’ve been on the wrong end of it a few too many here lately.”
Both of the goals that beat Grubauer were on wrist shots, including one by Silfverberg after he skated from end-to-end.
Henrique staked the Ducks to a 1-0 lead on a nifty wrist shot with 9.4 seconds remaining in the first period.
Nazem Kadri had a first-period goal disallowed after he batted in a puck once it caromed off the glass. The officials took a long look on replay before determining Kadri’s stick was above the crossbar when he made contact.
HOME SWEET HOME
Colorado began a nine-game home stretch, which is the longest continuous homestand in Avalanche history. The team did have a nine-game homestand in 2002, but that included an Olympic break.
“Just hanging out at home, and sleeping in your own bed and not having to travel, obviously, that pays dividends,” Kadri said.
It will also be the busiest month in Avalanche history, with 17 games in 31 days.
Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog and his wife, Melissa, recently welcomed a baby boy. The couple also have a daughter.
Bednar felt the two-game suspension issued to San Jose forward Joachim Blichfeld for his hit on MacKinnon was a fair punishment.
“He doesn’t do any of the things that sometimes players do when it’s a predatory hit,” Bednar explained. “I don’t think it was intentional.”
BACK ON THE ICE
Ducks Defenceman Josh Manson (oblique muscle injury) returned to the lineup for the first time since Jan. 18.
“I thought he played excellent,“ Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “This is a tough building to come in and return to after being out that long. The air is thin. You feel it just walking up the stairs here.”
THIS & THAT
Avalanche defenceman Dan Renouf had an assist for his first career NHL point. … Defencemen Cale Makar and Bowen Byram are day-to-day with upper-body injuries. … D Dennis Gilbert was added to the league’s COVID-19 protocol list. He was already out after surgery on his face. … F Matt Calvert (upper body) skated in a non-contact jersey Friday morning.
The Ducks and Avalanche run it back again Saturday. Anaheim is 1-1 this season in the second game of a back-to-back, while Colorado is 2-0-1.