Avalanche Coyotes Hockey

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) makes a save against a shot by Arizona Coyotes right wing Clayton Keller (9) during a shootout of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 26, 2023, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Arizona Coyotes, 4-3, in a shootout on the road Sunday afternoon. Here are three takeaways from the victory.

Shootout heroics

Two Avalanche players stepped up when needed the most in a dramatic seven-round shootout victory — Alexandar Georgiev and Valeri Nichushkin.

Georgiev — after giving up three goals in the third period — stopped seven Arizona shots in the shootout. He showcased elite reaction and quickness to stonewall the Coyotes. Nichushkin — after scoring a go-ahead power-play goal in the third — played hero in the shootout as the only Avalanche player to beat Arizona goalie Connor Ingram.

“It’s a tight game but it doesn’t matter. We have a good chance to win,” Georgiev said after the game in Arizona. “Then the shootout comes. I just try to make those saves on those guys and focus on that.”

Rantanen hits 48

Mikko Rantanen is creeping toward arguably the most impressive scoring milestone of his already historic Avalanche season. His wraparound goal in the second period marked No. 48 on the season. Rantanen needs only two more goals to become the first Avalanche player to hit 50 since Milan Hejduk (2002-03).

“We found a way,” Rantanen said postgame on the Altitude TV broadcast. “That’s what’s most important and the two points. We’re happy with that.”

Standings watch

With only 10 games left in the regular season, it’s time to pay serious attention to the divisional standings. A lot could happen over the next few weeks. Here’s a Central leading points breakdown (and points percentage) as of Sunday afternoon.

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1. Minnesota Wild: 93 (.637)

2. Colorado Avalanche: 92 (.639)

3. Dallas Stars: 92 (.630)

The Avalanche can take sole possession of first place on Monday night with a win at the Anaheim Ducks and a subsequent Minnesota Wild loss at the Seattle Kraken on the same night.

Avalanche 4, Coyotes 3 (SO)

What happened: Colorado survived a seven-round shootout after giving up a two-goal lead in regulation for consecutive wins over Arizona.

What went right: The Avalanche scored twice within a span of 1:16 in the second period. Mikko Rantanen notched the first goal when he corralled a loose puck for a wraparound goal. Then Bowen Byram nabbed a rebound for his eighth goal of the year. Later in the night, with Arizona tying the game, Valeri Nichushkin scored the go-ahead goal with 13:11 left in regulation. He extended the team’s streak to 11 games of scoring at least once on the power play. Nichushkin was also the lone Avalanche player to score in the shootout with a nifty hesitation move.

What went wrong: It was an ugly scoreless first period with the teams combining for just 10 shots on goal. Arizona scored three goals in the third period.

Between the pipes: Alexandar Georgiev’s made 27-of-30 saves in regulation and overtime. Arizona’s Connor Ingram stopped 29 of Colorado’s 32 shots on goal.

What’s next: The Avalanche (43-23-6) play  the second night of back-to-back games at the Anaheim Ducks (23-40-10), 8 p.m. Monday at the Honda Center.