Friday night was the opening act of a seven-games-in-11-days stretch for the Colorado Avalanche, and it worked out well on multiple fronts.
The Avalanche came away with a hard-fought, 3-2 win over the host Arizona Coyotes, and the two teams will meet again Saturday in Glendale, Ariz.
Coloradoended a two-game skid thanks to a strong third period, scoring twice to break out of an offensive funk. The Avalanche succeeded in the last 20 minutes without having to rely on Nathan MacKinnon, the team leader with 19 points who collected his 15th assist in the second period Friday night.
This time, Nazem Kadri was the offensive star, producing a goal and two assists on the night.
"For the most part, we were in control of that game," Kadri said.
Mikko Rantanen added a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, and Andre Burakovsky also scored.
Just as big for Colorado was that No. 1 goaltender Philipp Grubauer got a night off while Hunter Miska had a quiet game -- until the final 96 seconds -- in earning his first NHL win. He made 16 saves, though he did allow two goals in the late going.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar knew he needed to sit Grubauer in one of the two back-to-back games, and he chose a good one for him to rest ahead of a busy schedule.
"I think it is just time to give him some rest, and this is the best way to do it," Bednar said of Grubauer after the team's Friday morning skate. "Give him a few days off here and then he'll be ready for us the rest of the trip."
The Avalanche are relatively whole again after injuries ravaged the lineup. Backup goaltender Pavel Francouz is out for an extended time with a lower-body injury and defenseman Erik Johnson is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, but over the past week, Colorado has seen three forwards and three defensemen return from injury and illness.
Brandon Saad was back Friday after missing the Avalanche's loss to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday so he could be with his wife for the birth of the couple's second child.
The Coyotes had their two-game winning streak stopped Friday night. Each win was by a 4-3 count over the Anaheim Ducks, with both requiring a rally from three goals down. The first was accomplished in regulation on Monday while the second came in a shootout on Wednesday.
Those wins have helped Arizona, a team that wasn't projected to be in the top four of the West Division, stay within reach of the upper half.
"It's one of those things where you never stop believing, but we can't have a steady dose of this," Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said after Wednesday's win.
Arizona ran out of comebacks on Friday, although it made some noise late to spoil a shutout. Phil Kessel scored with 1:36 remaining in the game, and after they Coyotes pulled the goaltender, Drake Caggiula scored with 53 seconds left.
The near-comeback may give the Coyotes momentum for Saturday, but it might be tougher going against Colorado's top goaltender. Grubauer owns a 2.01 goals-against average that was inflated when he gave up five goals against Minnesota in a 6-2 loss on Wednesday. He has a .923 save percentage.
--Field Level Media