LAS VEGAS — Tabbed as a Nevada Day afternoon showdown between the best of the West, the visiting Avalanche on Friday produced an encore road performance from its big win last weekend at Tampa Bay.
The Lightning is the pick to win the Eastern Conference, and many believe the Vegas Golden Knights are the top team in the West. But the Avs have now pounded both after Colorado — in its first game without injured all-star winger Mikko Rantanen — dominated the Knights 6-1 at T-Mobile Arena to stretch its NHL-best record to 8-1-1 through 10 games.
“We talked a little bit about the Tampa game setting the standard for our team,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “I thought tonight was probably better than Tampa.”
The Avs, who are tied with the Nashville Predators with a league-high 4.20-goals-per-game average, finished 4-1-1 on their six-game road stretch.
Nathan MacKinnon (two assists) and Nazem Kadri (two goals) had big games to spearhead the early departure of Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fluery, who was pulled midway through the second period after Colorado took a commanding 4-1 lead. Fourth-line winger Matt Calvert also had two goals, both against Knights backup Garret Sparks, and fourth-line center Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare — who played the last two seasons in Vegas — had a team-high three points, including the game’s first goal 28 seconds into the game.
“Six out of the first 10 on the road, we’ve gone into some hostile environments and we keep coming out with wins,” said Kadri, who is among the Avs’ nine newcomers. “Says a lot about our character, our leadership, and I think tonight was a bit of a statement.”
MacKinnon became the first player in club history to begin a season on a 10-game points streak, and Kadri had his first multiple-goal game since February at the Pepsi Center, when he was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Seems like everything is coming around full-circle,” Kadri said. “I couldn’t be happier to be here and being able to contribute right away was definitely something I wanted to do.”
Makar made his NHL debut in the playoffs last season and scored. He now has nine points (one goal) in 10 regular-season games. “This one felt like the first one,” the 20-year-old said. “Just nice to get out of the way. Over and done with, and just keep going.”
The Avs outshot the Knights 34-14 after two periods and 40-26 for the game.
Bednar started his fourth line and Bellemare produced the game’s first shot before scoring on his second. The Knights tied it briefly at 18:30 of the first period, but Kadri notched his first goal 43 seconds later as the Avs took a 2-1 lead into the second.
“It was awesome,” Bednar said of Bellemare’s goal, just the 32nd in his 395-game career. “He’s such a great guy and he put in some good time here for the Knights. As you can see, the fans gave him an ovation in the break. They did a little tribute. For him to come out and start the game that way and get rewarded for some hard work, it really set a tone for our team.”
Colorado returns to Denver on Friday night to prepare for Saturday’s game against the visiting Anaheim Ducks. Before Friday’s game, Bednar said backup goalie Pavel Francouz would probably start against the Coyotes as the Avs try to improve to 5-0 at home.