DENVER | Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog both recorded a goal and an assist during a four-goal, second-period flurry to lead the Colorado Avalanche over the Vegas Golden Knights 5-1 in a West Division showdown Thursday night.
Joonas Donskoi and J.T. Compher also scored in a pivotal middle period during which the Avalanche outshot Vegas by a 16-5 margin to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare added another goal early in the third.
Philipp Grubauer stopped 17 shots to earn his eighth straight win. The victory allowed the Avalanche to pull even in points (45) with the division-leading Golden Knights. The teams play again at Ball Arena on Saturday afternoon.
“Guys stepped up big,” Landeskog explained. “Overall, a good team effort.”
This lopsided loss may sit with Vegas for a little bit.
“I don’t think you can move on when you lose a game 5-1. You have to sit down and look at it and see what went wrong,” Vegas forward Mark Stone said.
The Golden Knights got off to a fast start when Max Pacioretty scored 40 seconds into the game. Marc-Andre Fleury was solid in the opening period before struggling in the second, allowing four goals over an 11:37 span.
Fleury finished with 27 saves.
Donskoi tied it when he took a golf swing to knock in a bouncing puck on a power play. Compher gave the Avalanche the lead 5:11 later in the second on a shot that handcuffed Fleury.
Landeskog helped set up Makar’s hold-off-a-defender goal and Makar returned the favor by assisting on Landeskog’s score down low to make it 4-1.
“Just getting a few of those bounces gave us some confidence,” Makar said. “I think we just started rolling after the (first) goal.”
Grubauer improved to 20-7 this season. He becomes the first goaltender in Avalanche/Nordiques history to reach 20 wins in fewer than 30 appearances, according to the team.
Both the Avalanche and Golden Knights viewed this two-game mini-series in Denver as almost a playoff preview.
“It’s always a good challenge to see where our game is at,” Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault said before the game. “If we want to win it all, we’re definitely going to have to go through each other.”
Pacioretty didn’t take long to make an impact after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury. He split two Colorado defenders and then beat Grubauer with a backhand shot for career goal No. 297.
“The start was a little bit of fool’s gold,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “We were fortunate to be up 1-0 at the end of one. I’m not sure we deserved it.”
Colorado’s scoreless first period broke a string of tallying at least a goal in 20 straight periods (not counting overtime). That mark was a franchise record.
“We found a way to score some timely goals and check pretty hard,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But the game was a little bit sloppy and I just didn’t think we had a lot of energy.”
That may not be the prevailing opinion from the Golden Knights.
“If you turn pucks over, they turn it and go,” Stone said. “They play a different style than most teams and we’re going to have to adjust to it.”
For the pregame warmup, the Avalanche wore specially designed jerseys with “Boulder Strong” on the back. All the jerseys featured No. 10 to represent the 10 people, including a police officer, who were killed in the mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, on Monday.
The jerseys will be signed and auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Colorado Healing Fund, which supports victims, families, and the community affected by mass violence.
There was also a moment of silence.
Bednar remains unsure if he will have defenseman Erik Johnson (upper body injury) or goaltender Pavel Francouz (lower body) at any point this season.
“Long-term guys,” Bednar said. “I wouldn’t put a date on it.”
Matt Calvert was out Thursday as he dealt with nagging injuries.