SEATTLE — Save for a shoddy finish, the preseason Stanley Cup favorite rolled over the expansion Seattle Kraken and its former goalie on Friday night in its first game against the NHL’s 32nd team.
Five Avalanche scored, including two power-play goals from winger Andre Burakovsky and two at even-strength from defenseman Cale Makar, as the white-hot visitors sunk the Kraken 7-3 at Climate Pledge Arena to sweep a two-game West Coast road trip.
“We’re finding our rhythm right now,” said defenseman Erik Johnson, the Avs’ longest-tenured player.
Colorado, now 4-0 during star center Nathan MacKinnon’s latest absence, took a 4-0 lead to chase starting goalie Chris Driedger just 5:33 into the second period. The Avs (8-5-1) then added two goals on former netminder Philipp Grubauer, who signed with Seattle as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, and eventually built a 7-0 lead before the hosts scored two power-play goals.
Sans MacKinnon, Colorado has outscored its last four opponents a combined 24-8.
“Probably shows the depth of our team and how much better we’ll be when we get Nate back,” Johnson said. “We’re just getting contributions throughout the lineup and when we get Nate back it will be a huge boost for us.”
Makar and Johnson put pucks past Grubauer to complete a four-goal second period and take a 6-0 lead into the third before a quieted crowd of 17,151. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, playing his second game with the Avs after being claimed off waivers from Philadelphia last week, made it 7-0 early in the final frame.
“I didn’t score on Grubi in (three) years in practice,” Johnson joked. “Somehow I scored on him today.”
Goalie Darcy Kuemper had what would have been his first shutout with the Avs ended when Seattle (4-12-1) scored a power-play goal 1:10 after Aube-Kubel put the third puck behind Grubauer. Colorado committed four penalties in less than five minutes to get the crowd back into the game.
“I loved our team effort,” said Avs coach Jared Bednar, who agreed to a two-year contract extension that was announced before the game. “Obviously, penalties in the third period kept us playing in our zone and they got some life out of that. But for the most part our game was really good.”
The Avs scored in every situation, getting a shorthanded goal from Valeri Nichushkin to take a 2-0 lead just 6:39 into the game. Makar scored his first for a 3-0 lead early in the second period and Burakovsky added his second at 5:33 to end Driedger’s outing.
Grubauer, who was the Avs’ primary goalie over the past three seasons, had played in 13 of the Kraken’s 16 previous games. But he was named Driedger’s backup after the morning skate — after absorbing his eighth loss against the visiting Blackhawks on Wednesday.
Footnotes. Colorado second-line center Nazem Kadri had two assists, extending his points streak to eight games. … The Avs’ scratches were defensemen Kurtis MacDermid and Bo Byram, the latter of whom is in concussion protocol. MacKinnon (lower-body injury) missed his fourth consecutive game and sixth of the season. Forward J.T. Compher (upper-body) missed his second straight. … Colorado will take Saturday off. It begins a two-game homestand on Monday against the Ottawa Senators, who are currently shut down in COVID protocol.
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