If the Anaheim Ducks are going to become a consistent Stanley Cup contender again like the Colorado Avalanche, Leo Carlsson is likely to be a big part of it.
Carlsson showed why he’s one of the best prospects in the sport Saturday night with a goal, an assist and the lone shootout tally to lead the Ducks past the Avalanche, 4-3. It’s the second straight loss after regulation for the Avs, who fall to 15-6-2 after a weird game where they played better during the parts where they weren’t scoring goals.
The first 20 minutes was one of the sloppier periods the Avalanche has played in recent weeks, but Colorado led 3-1 at the intermission. The weird stuff started right from the first shift.
Anaheim’s Brett Leason got behind Bowen Byram for a breakaway, but after a huge save from Ivan Prosvetov, the Avs went the other way on a 3-on-2 rush. Miles Wood carried the puck in before finding Byram as the trailer for his third goal of the season just 36 seconds in.
Anaheim carried the play for much of the next eight minutes, but Byram scored again on another counter-attack. Ex-Ducks defenseman Josh Manson, back in Anaheim for the first time since joining Colorado, collected the puck behind the net and passed it to Fredrik Olofsson. The Avs’ center sprung Byram and Andrew Cogliano on a 2-on-1, and the defenseman scored his fourth of the year at 8:59.
Anaheim had a power play later in the period, and took 68 seconds to find a shot attempt but it was a lay-up for Adam Henrique. The Avalanche penalty kill entered the day in the top five in the league, but allowed goals Anaheim’s first two chances with the extra man in this one.
The Ducks were the better side for a couple of shifts just before the end of the period, but another Avs defenseman scored off the rush with 42.9 seconds left. Devon Toews connected with Mikko Rantanen just inside the offensive zone near the Ducks bench, and he returned the puck with a pretty cross-ice pass through traffic that led to Toews’ fourth goal.
Colorado’s overall play was better in the second period, but Anaheim had the only two goals. The Avs had a glorious chance to take a three-goal lead early on. Jack Johnson faked out Ducks goalie John Gibson and a wide-open net for a wraparound goal, but an Anaheim skater was able to prevent the stuff. Seconds later Jonathan Drouin had an open net during the scramble situation and his shot was blocked.
The Ducks scored on the next shift, then added their second extra-man goal, and the Avalanche were suddenly in a tie game with nearly 30 minutes to play. Colorado played better for much of that final 30 minutes in regulation than they did in the first 20, but Gibson got significantly better to keep the Avs at bay.