Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon score twice in Avalanche rout of Red Wings

It would have sounded ludicrous as recently as four days ago to credit the 2022-23 Avalanche with a feat of dominance equally impressive as the previous year’s team.

But the Stanley Cup-winning Avs only matched this one: a two-game stretch with a plus-10 goal differential.

Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon both scored twice, and with a faction of Red Wings fans almost outnumbering the home attendance at Ball Arena, the Avalanche tipped those scales in their favor with a commanding 6-3 win Monday. It would have been a plus-11 in the last two games if not for Detroit’s tally in the last 40 seconds.

After flailing four days ago when a loss at Chicago seemed unfathomable, the Avs (22-17-3) suddenly look like their old selves. They scored the first five goals on the heels of Saturday’s 7-0 win over Ottawa, before Detroit finally beat Pavel Francouz late in the second period.

This was the first time the Avalanche scored 10 unanswered goals since March 13-18 of last season (against Calgary, Los Angeles and San Jose), and their first time scoring a dozen unanswered since March 18-22, 2021 (against Minnesota, Minnesota and Arizona).

Fourteen different Avalanche skaters tallied a point during that 12-goal streak, including nine different forwards. After playing the first 40 games with a traditional lineup of 12 forwards and six defensemen, Colorado has gone 11 and seven back-to-back games with rewarding results.

Valeri Nichushkin (ankle) returned to the lineup after missing the last nine games since the holiday break. His net-front presence aided Makar’s first goal, a power play snipe from the blueline. Nichushkin was also credited with a secondary assist for his first point since Dec. 17.

That goal sent the Avalanche into first intermission with a multi-goal lead for the second consecutive game after they had accomplished that only once in the previous 27 games.

Lehkonen struck first with his third goal in the last two games after a nine-game scoreless streak. As he released his shot, MacKinnon was mid-collision with Detroit goalie Ville Husso outside the edge of the crease. The Red Wings immediately challenged for goalie interference but failed, giving the Avalanche a lead and a power play.

It took them until their third man advantage to convert, but they finished the day 2-for-4, scoring multiple power play goals for the first time since Dec. 1 in Buffalo (21 games ago).

Evan Rodrigues fed a wide-open J.T. Compher in the crease for the other, a promising sign for the second PP unit. Minor injuries have attempted to interfere with Rodrigues’ season, but he has recorded a point in the last nine games in which he has appeared. After a two-assist day, he’s at 23 points (10 goals) in 31 games this season.

Francouz started in net for the third game in a row, with Jared Bednar continuing to give Alexandar Georgiev a breather. Francouz has saved 83 of 87 (.954) shots during this trio of games, which started with the seemingly rock-bottom dud in Chicago.

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