Epic hockey at Ball Arena: Avalanche, Maple Leafs treat crowd of 17,334 to spectacular showing – The Denver Post

It was only an NHL regular-season game. But anyone who watched the Avalanche rally to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime inside Ball Arena on Saturday might agree that it was as good as it gets.

“I thought it was awesome,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of the back-and-forth affair between the NHL’s winningest teams since Nov. 11. “Joe (Sakic) even said, ‘If you’re just coming to watch our team or those two teams for the first time, or hockey in general, and you watch that game here, you’re going to be hooked to come back.”

The best players from both teams had a great night, including top-line centers Nathan MacKinnon and Auston Matthews, who combined for 20 shots. MacKinnon had a game-high 12 for the Avs. His right winger, Mikko Rantanen, had four assists, and his left winger, Gabe Landeskog, had a goal and two points.

The Avs’ top-pair defensemen, Cale Makar and Devon Toews, each scored a goal — including Toews’ OT winner.

“The crowd was really into it,” said Matthews, who scored twice in the first period — his fourth and fifth goals against the Avs in two games — to give the Leafs a 3-0 lead.

The Leafs (22-8-3) lost for the first time in 18 games this season when leading after two periods.

“It was a good game, the crowd was really loud. It was fun out there,” Leafs goalie Jack Campbell said.

Colorado (21-8-2) will take Sunday off before hosting the expansion Seattle Kraken for the first time on Monday.

Five takeaways from the big win over Toronto.

Dominance at home. The Avs won their 11th consecutive game at Ball Arena, setting a new club record and tying the Florida Panthers for the longest home winning streak this season. Colorado is 12-0-1 in its last 13 games at Ball Arena and 29-2-2 over its last 33 since last season.

Perhaps the positive vibe at home helped the Avs overcome a three-goal deficit for the first time since Feb. 20, 2018, when they also won 5-4 in overtime at Vancouver after trailing 4-1.

Payback. Toronto handed Colorado its worst loss of the season on Dec. 1, winning 8-3 in a game Matthews had a hat trick.

“We talked about it before the game, that what happened in Toronto, and how we wanted to get a little payback,” Rantanen said. “We didn’t start the right way but I think the three goals (against) gave us even more anger to come back and show that’s it’s not over and we’re not losing that easy because of our last game in the regular season against these guys. They’re a really good team, but so are we, and I think we showed it in the last two (periods).”

Back-end scoring. Broken record, maybe, but the offense that is coming from Avalanche defensemen is certainly a key in the team’s success. With goals from Makar and Toews, Colorado now has a league-high 35 goals and 107 points from blueliners.

Toews reached 100 career points with his goal. He was plus-2 and is now tied with the NHL lead in plus-minus at plus-24.

Makar leads all NHL defensemen with 15 goals and he’s on pace to break Sandis Ozolinsh’s record of 23 goals by a defenseman in 1996-97.

Great Nate. MacKinnon extended his points streak to 13 games, the league’s longest active streak, and his fifth career points streak of 13-plus games. He has 24 points (four goals) during his latest stretch and his 1.62 points-per-game average is first among all NHL skaters.

MacKinnon’s 12 shots tied his career-high.

Four-game tear. Avs left wing and team captain Gabe Landeskog has eight points (five goals) in the four games he has played since returning from injury. He has points in each of his last 14 games, including the last 10 before his injury.

Footnote. Colorado’s .710 winning percentage is tops in the Western Conference and fourth in the league behind Carolina (.758), Florida (.729) and Toronto (.712).

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