Pavel Francouz enters and leads Colorado Avalanche to shootout win over Minnesota Wild | Sports

DENVER — Backup goaltender Pavel Francouz came into Monday’s game near the halfway point and after a flawed settlement, was perfect on the shootout. It gave the Colorado Avalanche their 14th straight win at the Ball Arena, 4-3.

Nathan MacKinnon’s game-winning goal in the third period earned a long stare from the officials. The puck was, by a reasonable mental leap, in the net, but covered by the leg of Minnesota Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen.

An obscured view can be the death knell for a good lens. Not this time.

“We thought there was no way they were calling it goalless,” forward Alex Newhook said. “It was a little weird because of the view, it was in his pad there, but I think we were pretty confident.”

MacKinnon’s goal was the 600th point of his career. He is the first member of the 2013 draft class to reach that number. Aleksander Barkov of Florida is second at 494.

For all replay inspection, the Wild tied the game 41 seconds later. Kirill Kaprizov scored his second of the night to secure overtime for the fifth time in Colorado’s eight games.

Francouz did not allow a shootout goal to Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Fiala or Kaprizov. Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen scored at the other end, giving the Avalanche the second point in the standings against a Central Division opponent.

Francouz also made three saves in a shootout victory on Friday.

“He’s really patient in there, doesn’t bite on the first fake or anything,” MacKinnon said.

Rantanen fired one of the first period 5-on-3 penalties on which he eventually scored. As Minnesota returned to even strength, Newhook waited at the hash marks while Samuel Girard spun along the boards. Girard assisted Newhook for another Avalanche goal.

It took a period and a half, but the Wild erased that 2-0 lead.

Minnesota didn’t let the Avalanche do their usual thing. He’s been aggressive in defending Colorado, whose odds have crumbled. A more creative approach came when Wild forward Ryan Hartman blocked a shot and held it under him, lying between the face-off circles when he appeared unhurt. He won two minutes for late game.

Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway beat Colorado starter Darcy Kuemper nearly nine minutes into the second period. It happened right next to Kurtis MacDermid, who focused on Greenway and dropped the gloves. There are only a few pounds and an inch of height difference between the players, but MacDermid kept swinging and overpowered Greenway.

Kuemper held the net for one more whistle and then walked away, finishing with 12 saves.

Francouz (25 saves) entered the game with the Avalanche leading 2-1. He got part of Kaprizov’s first tying goal, but the puck went through. The Avalanche had two chances to clear the frontcourt but missed.

Francouz took advantage of a lucky break in the last minute of overtime as the puck landed in the net beside the goal post. The Avalanche then extended a franchise-record home winning streak, becoming the 13th team in NHL history to reach 14.

They weren’t all convincing, and MacKinnon didn’t see that as a bad thing.

“We were killing teams for a while there every night. It’s important for us to be in these close matches,” he said. “I think last year we didn’t have a lot of tight games. We’ve beaten a lot of teams pretty badly all year. I think in the playoffs it didn’t help us.

“We are in high pressure situations against very good teams this season.”

REMARK: Striker Valeri Nichushkin was ruled out ahead of the game. Coach Jared Bednar said he tested positive for COVID-19 and was asymptomatic. He could return this week but will not travel with the team to California. Bednar indicated that Nichushkin could fly out later.

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