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The Canadiens slow the surging Avalanche and end Colorado’s nine-game winning streak

The Colorado Avalanche have looked unstoppable at home and in every venue for most of the season since a wave of new additions before the NHL trade deadline.

The Montreal Canadiens stopped them on Tuesday night at Ball Arena. Colorado scored on the first shift, but that was all for the powerful Avs. The Canadiens ended their nine-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory.

It was just the Avalanche’s seventh loss in this building in 35 games this season.

“It was frustrating because we didn’t control hard enough in the first period,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Tonight we didn’t exceed our mistakes.”

Nathan MacKinnon kept the tension at bay as he sought the longest home points streak in NHL history. He scored off a pass from Mikko Rantanen after 43 seconds. Jonathan Drouin didn’t get an assist on this play, but he made sure the entire sequence came together by keeping the puck in the zone at the blue line.

The goal was MacKinnon’s 45th of the season and it now gives him at least one point in all 35 games at Ball Arena this season. It is the second-longest home point streak in NHL history – Wayne Gretzky holds the record with 40 games in the 1988-89 season.

MacKinnon now has 77 points at home this season. That’s the most by any NHL player in his home stadium since Mario Lemieux had 104 for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96.

Nick Suzuki tied the game for Montreal nine seconds later as both teams scored on their first shots of the game. Joel Armia gave the Canadiens the lead late in the first period with a strange play. Avalanche goaltender Justus Annunen thought the puck was hidden in his gear, but it was actually behind him.

Armia fished the ball from between his legs, went to the other side of the net and stuffed it into the goal with 5:07 left. That left the Avalanche with 45 minutes to pull off another comeback, but the NHL’s comeback kings couldn’t pull off another comeback this season.

It was a combination of factors. Samuel Montembeault had a strong night in net, especially in the first 25-30 minutes when the Avs were often on offense. The Canadiens also did a better job of disrupting the Avs’ mojo as the game progressed, particularly in the second half of the second period when the game became a slog with few chances on either side.

“We tried to be too cute sometimes,” Avs defenseman Cale Makar said. “Simplicity is usually the answer. That’s how you start generating opportunities.”

At times it just looked like a bad evening for the home team. MacKinnon and Makar had a few unusual misunderstandings. The power play was disjointed and created very few chances despite three opportunities in the first half of the game.

Hopes of another comeback were largely dashed when Sean Walker took two big penalties in the third period, including a double fault with just under five minutes left.

“They blocked a lot of shots and their goalie played well,” Bednar said. “We just didn’t do enough. Didn’t do enough defensively at the beginning, probably didn’t do enough offensively later on either.”

FOOTNOTES: Annunen signed a two-year contract on Tuesday. The cap is $837,500. He should be a restricted free agent after this season and will still be an RFA at the end of the contract.

The 24-year-old has emerged as the club’s No. 2 goaltender in the second half of the season after starting the year in the AHL. He and Ivan Prosvetov had chances to play behind Alexandar Georgiev since Pavel Francouz missed the entire season due to injury. Avs GM Chris MacFarland told DNVR earlier this week that Francouz, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, has given the club no indication that he will try to move on.

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