Matt Duchene couldn’t have scripted the night any better.
With his dad in the stands and playing his first game since he became a father himself, Duchene scored twice and added an assist in the Ottawa Senators’ 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
Duchene missed the last three Senators games to be with his wife Ashley after the birth of their son Beau. It also marked the first time he played against the Avalanche in Ottawa since he was traded by Colorado to the Senators on Nov. 5, 2017.
“It’s a very special feeling,” said Duchene. “My main focus coming in today was to just try and meld back into the lineup the best I could and fit in with what the guys had been doing on the road. They had been playing so well.
“We had some huge efforts from everybody. (Nilsson) was outstanding, (Pageau’s) line did a really good job against their top line and I thought top to bottom we were outstanding.”
Nikita Zadorov and Nathan MacKinnon scored for the Avalanche (21-18-8), who wrapped up a five-game road trip. Semyon Varlamov stopped 26 shots.
It was a difficult trip for the Avalanche as they finished with a 1-4-0 record.
“It’s a disappointing road trip because I thought we started it playing some good hockey and didn’t get rewarded,” said Colorado head coach Jared Bednar. “I didn’t like our game in Montreal, really liked it in Toronto and not ready to play (Wednesday).”
Both teams came into the game with the worst records in the league since Dec. 1, with the Senators 6-12-2, while the Avalanche were only slightly better at 6-11-3.
Ottawa can take some solace in knowing that it’s now won three of its past four games, but more importantly have Duchene and Thomas Chabot back in the lineup. Chabot returned after missing the last eight games with an upper-body injury.
“A guy like that makes plays that can win games,” said head coach Guy Boucher. “Even when he doesn’t have a goal or a point, it’s the minutes he plays, the neutral zone transitions, play in the offensive zone, momentum, you can’t measure his impact. That’s why when you lose a guy like that it’s gigantic.”
Leading 3-1, the Senators extended their lead midway through the third as Duchene scored his 19th of the season. Zack Smith fired a puck that went wide of the net off the back boards and Duchene picked it up and scored short side.
“I play my best when I’m light and happy,” said Duchene. “This week has been the best week of my life and I think it’s just been so special and that light heartedness helped me out.”
The Avalanche appeared to cut the lead in half minutes later, but upon review it was called off as the left post was off the mooring.
MacKinnon had a power-play goal with four minutes remaining and Varlamov on the bench for the two-man advantage. The Avalanche had another opportunity after Christian Jaros sent the puck over the glass, but Colorado couldn’t capitalize and Duchene put the puck into an empty net for his second of the night.
Ottawa opened the scoring in the second minute of the second period as Tkachuk buried a Chris Tierney rebound right in front.
Just over one minute later Stone, with his 21st of the season, re-directed Cody Ceci’s shot past Varlamov.
The Senators took a 3-0 lead midway through the period on a play that started with a great defensive play by Chabot to stop a breakaway and then went on to find Dzingel alone down low who tucked the puck in the open side.
“I think as the game went on I felt better and better,” said Chabot. “It always feels good to get the first one out of the way and I’m excited to hit the road.”
The Avalanche finally got on the board late in the period as Zadorov’s point shot made it through traffic to beat Nilsson.
“The second period I felt we started to take over five or six minutes in, as soon as they scored to make it 2-0,” said Gabriel Landeskog. “We finally started doing the things we need to do. It’s gotten so repetitive; it’s frustrating, that we have to wait until the other team scores two goals before we start playing.”