Lehkonen scores twice as Colorado Avalanche rout Montreal Canadiens 8-4
MONTREAL — Artturi Lehkonen scored his 99th and 100th career goals in his first game back at the Bell Centre as the Colorado Avalanche grabbed a 8-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
Valeri Nichushkinhad a goal and two assists, while Bowen Byram, Matt Nieto, Mikko Rantanen, J.T. Compher and Nathan MacKinnon also scored for Colorado (36-22-6). Cale Makar collected three assists.
Alexandar Georgiev made 15 saves.
Josh Anderson had a goal and an assist, while Denis Gurianov, Jesse Ylonen and Mike Matheson scored as Montreal (26-35-6) slipped to a seven-game winless skid. Nick Suzuki added two assists.
Jake Allen allowed six goals on 15 shots before being pulled in the second period. Sam Montembeault made 16 saves in relief.
The defending Stanley Cup champions took a four-goal lead off of their first eight shots in the first period.
Logan O’Connor’s wrist shot from the blue line beat Allen 2:59 into the game. The goal was later awarded to Lehkonen who redirected the shot.
Byram easily made his way around Kaiden Guhle and found the Avalanche’s second of the game 6:09 into the opening frame.
Nieto pierced through Montreal’s defence, waited for Allen to make the first move and beat the netminder ess than two minutes later. Former Hab Lars Eller collected his first Avalanche point on the goal.
Lehkonen scored his first goal back at the Bell Centre shortly after a video celebrating his time in Montreal was shown on the big screen midway through the first period. The Finn redirected a shot from Rantanen in front of the net and was met with a cheer from the crowd.
Montreal saved their honour with a late first-period goal. Anderson deflected a shot from Jonathan Kovacevic for his 20th goal of the season.
Colorado got right back to their scoring ways 2:48 into the second when Rantanen hopped on Allen’s rebound to tap in his 43rd of the campaign.
Compher took a page out of his teammate’s book and also capitalized a rebound, giving Colorado a five-goal advantage. Habs coach Martin St. Louis pulled Allen for Sam Montembeault following the goal.
Gurianov scored his second goal in as many games with a wrister from the right faceoff circle on the power play late in the second period.
Colorado found a seventh goal when MacKinnon drove the puck from his own blue line to score a power play marker at 8:09 of the final frame.
Ylonen and Matheson scored with wrist shots from the blue line just under two minutes apart in the third, shaving Montreal’s deficit to three goals.
Nichushkin shut down Montreal’s comeback attempt with the Avs’ eighth goal by redirecting Makar’s shot on the power play.
Canadiens forward Rem Pitlick awkwardly fell into the board while rushing for the puck behind Colorado’s net. The Canadiens announced that Pitlick would not return to the game at the start of the second period.
Lehkonen played his first game back at the Bell Centre since a trade that sent him to Denver last March. The Avs acquired the Finn in return for defenceman Justin Barron and a 2024 second-round pick.
The 27-year-old was presented with a tribute video in the first period and received a standing ovation from the Bell Centre crowd. He scored on the following shift. Lehkonen later reached 100 NHL goals with his second strike of the game.
The Canadiens travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins on Tuesday.
The Avalanche visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2023.
Tristan D’Amours, The Canadian Press