Rantanen scores in OT, Avalanche beat Canadiens 2-1

DENVER (AP) — Mikko Rantanen scored 1:51 into overtime, Artturi Lehkonen had a goal in his first game against his former team, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Wednesday night for their fifth win in six games.

After Jonathan Druin couldn’t finish for Montreal in close, the Avs broke on a 2-on-1 and Devon Toews fed Rantanen for his 22nd goal.

“Got it through the goalie this time,” Rantanen said.

Alexandar Georgiev made 19 saves and the banged-up Avalanche did just enough to win their third straight. Colorado hasn’t scored more than three goals in a game since a 6-4 victory at Buffalo on Dec. 1.

Still, the Avs completed a 4-1 homestand.

“No. 1 for me is our checking,” coach Jared Bednar said. “If we’re not going to score a lot of goals we’ve got to be willing to win games 1-0 and 2-1.”

Anthony Richard scored his first NHL goal and Jake Allen stopped 34 shots for the Canadiens, who have dropped four of five.

Lehkonen, the focus of the matchup, scored on a power play early in the third period to tie it at 1.

“Right place at the right time,” Lehkonen said.

Seven seconds after Richard headed to the box for hooking, Lehkonen delivered off Rantanen’s feed to end a scoreless drought of nearly 108 minutes for the Avalanche. They beat the New York Islanders 1-0 on Monday in a shootout.

Before that, it appeared the Avs would never solve Allen.

He made a flurry of saves early in the second period, none finer than his sprawling, point-blank stop of Logan O’Connor. Allen also kept Colorado at bay on a power play bridging the second and third, getting help when Valeri Nichushkin whiffed on a chance in close.

Before the game, Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis acknowledged it was an important matchup for his improved team.

“They’re obviously missing some big players, but collectively it’s a brand that’s hard to play against,” he said. “So it’s a good measuring stick.”

And the Canadiens struck quickly as Richard, who turned 26 on Tuesday, used his speed to slip through two defenders and beat Georgiev on a breakaway 1:48 into his fourth NHL game.

Richard has played 389 games in the AHL, getting to play in just two games over two seasons with Nashville before Montreal gave him a shot.

LEHKONEN IN DEMAND

Montreal media members crowded around Lehkonen after the morning skate. The 27-year-old winger spent six seasons with the Canadiens before being sent to Colorado ahead of last season’s trade deadline.

Lehkonen scored four winning goals in the playoffs in helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup. A year earlier, he scored the winning overtime goal that sent the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final.

“I feel like I was appreciated there. Montreal was very good to me,” Lehkonen said, adding the city feels like a “second home.”

STUCK IN DENVER

Amid snowfall, strong winds and freezing temperatures, the Canadiens were grounded in Denver after the game. The team canceled a scheduled practice Thursday in Dallas.

NOTES: Avalanche F Nathan MacKinnon (upper body) skated Wednesday morning, but is still a couple of weeks from returning. … The Canadiens were outshot 15-4 in the second period and 9-3 in the third … C Denis Malgin, acquired from Toronto on Monday for Dryden Hunt, skated on the third line and picked up a slashing penalty in his Avalanche debut. Malgin is the NHL-high 36th player to suit up for Colorado this season. … Bednar said F Andrew Cogliano (upper body) is out until after the Christmas break.

UP NEXT

Canadiens: At Dallas on Friday night.

Avalanche: At Nashville on Friday night.

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