DENVER - Mikko Rantanen scored the third hat trick of his career and Bowen Byram found the net in his return from the injury list Saturday as the Colorado Avalanche bounced back against the Nashville Predators, 6-2 at Ball Arena.
Gabriel Landeskog sent a pass straight to an open Byram, who was rapping the ice to alert the Avalanche captain. Byram chipped it over goaltender David Rittich’s shoulder to make it 3-1.
Byram, 20, was one of the Avalanche’s best defensemen through the season’s first 11 games. He entered concussion protocol shortly after absorbing an elbow to the head from Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat on Nov. 11. He hadn’t played since then.
“You see a lot of guys come back from that type of injury and sort of tiptoe around the ice and not be as assertive,” coach Jared Bednar said.
“I thought he was the exact opposite tonight. That was as good of a game as I’ve seen him play.”
A concussion cut Byram’s 2020-21 season to 19 games. He returned Saturday after missing six. Defenseman Ryan Murray left with a lower-body injury after recording just 11 seconds of ice time so Byram helped fill in, totaling exactly 22 minutes with four shots on goal.
Byram said he started feeling better “a week or so ago.”
“Just wanted to be sure about everything,” Byram said.
Rantanen pushed the lead to 5-1 with his third goal. A Nazem Kadri pass to Jayson Megna, fresh out of the penalty box, didn’t make it through. Rantanen ate up the leftovers.
“It feels really good to see the fans happy like that,” Rantanen said.
Jonas Johansson made 26 saves in his first start since Nov. 3. He got the nod following a defeat at the Dallas Stars on Friday night with Darcy Kuemper in net. That loss ended a six-game win streak.
On the Avalanche’s first power play of the game, Rantanen drifted to the side of the cage and made the gentlest contact with a feed from Landeskog, sending the puck off the far post and in. Rantanen followed up with two and a half minutes to play in the first period, again on the power play. He one-timed a pass from Cale Makar.
Makar did everything but extend his franchise-record, five-game goal streak by a defenseman. He had an assist on the first three goals to rebrand it a six-game point streak (7 goals, 5 assists).
Rantanen used his body to shove aside a defender, spun and found Valeri Nichushkin, who made it 4-1. Tyson Jost scored the Avalanche’s sixth goal.
Landeskog got into a bloody altercation with Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm late in the second period. Everyone on the ice started shoving and Ekholm pulled off Rantanen’s helmet. Ekholm and Landeskog separated themselves and Landeskog landed several blows. Ekholm got the worst of the apparent impact, bleeding from his face, while Landeskog took the worst of the resulting penalties.