ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Jonas Johansson made 28 saves in his first career shutout, and Valeri Nichushkin scored in the Colorado Avalanche’s 2-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night. Mikko Rantanen added an empty-net goal in the final minute as the West Division-leading Avalanche bounced back from an embarrassing 8-3 loss Wednesday to Minnesota, one that ended their streak of earning a point in 15 consecutive games. Colorado also played solidly after its morning skate was canceled by a positive COVID-19 test.
“The whole day was kind of weird,” Johansson said. “I tried to stay focused on a long day at the hotel. … I’m proud of the guys playing in front of me there at the end. I don’t think they had really a lot of good scoring opportunities in the third. It was good to get the win even though we didn’t really have our best game.”
Johansson made his case to be Philipp Grubauer’s backup in a strong performance against the last-place Ducks. The Avalanche are in the trade market for a backup goalie, but the 6-foot-5 Johansson has allowed only three goals in his last three appearances for the Avs, who acquired him March 20 from Buffalo.
“It was kind of a greasy road win,” Colorado’s Tyson Jost said. “It wasn’t pretty by any means, but JJ was awesome tonight. He did a great job. He was a rock tonight. We didn’t help him out much, but he got it done.”
Nathan MacKinnon extended his points streak to eight games, assisting Rantanen’s late goal, which was Rantanen’s seventh in seven games against the Ducks this season.
John Gibson stopped 33 shots for Anaheim, which has lost 11 of 15.
Gibson and the Ducks held the NHL’s highest-scoring team to just one even-strength goal while mainly shutting down MacKinnon’s entire line, but low-scoring Anaheim was shut out for only the second time this season.
The Ducks played without captain Ryan Getzlaf, who injured reserve with an upper-body injury and forward Isac Lundeström, who had his appendix removed after falling ill Thursday. “I think we played a good game,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “That’s an excellent team. … With a lineup depleted as ours is, I think there was a lot of pride in those guys really bonding together and making a choice to play the right way.”
Nichushkin put Colorado on the board with his quick shot from the slot late in the second period, converting a one-timer to Gibson’s short side on a slick pass from Ryan Graves. This season, four of Nichushkin’s nine goals have come in the Avalanche’s last five games against Anaheim, including his last goal on March 29 in Denver.
Colorado had won five straight and earned points in 15 consecutive games before its embarrassing loss at Minnesota. The Avs rebounded from their first regulation loss since March 8 with their fifth win in seven meetings with Anaheim this season. Avs forward Jacob MacDonald sat out to begin his two-game suspension for hitting Minnesota’s Ryan Hartman in the head.
Chase De Leo suited up for Anaheim for the first time this season. The 25-year-old center from nearby La Mirada grew up cheering for the Ducks, who acquired him from Winnipeg in 2018 and used him for one NHL game – both on the road – in each of the previous two seasons.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted my entire life since I was 3 years old, I guess,” De Leo said after his fifth career NHL game. “Being on the other side of the glass, I didn’t miss too many Ducks games. I didn’t find out I was playing until pretty late in the afternoon, so I wasn’t able to have my family here, but I’m going to see them now.”
After spending most of the past three seasons with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in San Diego, De Leo finally gets a chance with his favorite team.
“There’s a young man who always dreamed about playing for this organization,” said Eakins, who coached De Leo in San Diego. “He got traded here, and he’s had to work, work, work to achieve this. I think it’s just a great testament to when you put your mind to something, and you work your tail off, great things can happen.”
The teams finish their season series Sunday at Honda Center.
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