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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Another fast start fuels Avalanche in dominant 4-1 win over Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Suddenly, the Avalanche’s strong starts are beginning to blur together enough to be forgotten.

“First time in a while we had a really good first period,” Mikko Rantanen said Wednesday in Calgary after a 3-0 frame led to a 4-1 win. The natural follow-up: Was there something Rantanen didn’t like about Colorado’s first periods in the previous two games, both of which ended with 2-0 leads? “Oh yeah, it was I guess,” he laughed. “Yeah, that was good. I forgot about those.”

Dominant starts being treated as no biggie felt unimaginable a week ago, but they’re fueling the Avalanche now. The latest was a 3-0 lead in Vancouver en route to a 4-1 win.

After 21 consecutive games without holding a three-goal lead, the Avs (24-17-3) have started the last four games ahead 7-0, 5-0, 3-0 and 3-0. At one point, they went 11 games without a first-intermission lead.

This game that snapped that streak was earlier this month in Vancouver, but the ensuing collapse turned out to be one of the bleakest moments of the season. It was still on coach Jared Bednar’s mind Friday morning before the rematch — “We took a nap for eight minutes,” he said — and the players skated like it was still on their minds, too.

Valeri Nichushkin scored his first goal since Oct. 25 at Madison Square Garden. Rantanen netted his 32nd of the season, staying on a 59.6-goal pace 24 hours after fans voted him to his second NHL All-Star Game. Both of those goals were scored with 5-on-3 advantages, another refreshing uptick after the power play drought that plagued Colorado through its eight-game slump after the holiday break. Six of Nichushkin’s eight goals this season have been on the power play.

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