Avalanche pile on Sens in Duchene's return to Colorado
Ottawa centre scores twice in loss to former team
Gabriel Landeskog didn't feel out of line with this proclamation: His line is the best in hockey.
It's hard to argue given their success.
Landeskog broke a tie with 13:46 remaining as part of Colorado's four-goal third period to help the Avalanche beat the Ottawa Senators 6-3 on Friday night and spoil a two-goal performance from Matt Duchene in his return to Denver.
Colorado's top line of Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen finished with a combined 10 points. Rantanen led the way with a goal and three assists.
Asked in front of the crowd if that combination was indeed the best, Landeskog matter-of-factly responded: "Yeah. We are."
Landeskog gave Colorado the lead for good by knocking in his ninth goal of the season off a feed from Rantanen. Colorado outscored the Senators 6-1 after falling behind 2-0 midway through the first period.
Samuel Girard, Carl Soderberg and Matt Nieto also scored for Colorado. Girard's goal was the first by an Avalanche defenceman this season.
Still, that Avs line left an impression on the Senators.
Avs storm back to down Sens:
"It's the age of super-lines right now and that's one of them," Duchene said. "They're good. They're all coming into their own."
Especially Rantanen, who has five goals and 15 assists this season.
"My linemates are helping me a lot. I love to play on that line with those two," Rantanen said. "The whole team is playing really good right now."
Duchene was greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos as he took the ice in the place where he spent his first eight-plus seasons. A disgruntled Duchene was traded to Ottawa last November as part of a three-team deal.
For this occasion, Duchene rented a suite at the Pepsi Center for his wife, family and friends. He tipped in a shot in the first period and scored again on a break in the second to stake the Senators to a 3-1 lead. It wouldn't be enough.
The Ottawa centre was honoured by the Avalanche midway through the first period. Duchene clapped in appreciation while his former teammates on the bench banged their sticks against the boards.
"Just the signs in warm-up and the people that were being so kind meant a lot to me," Duchene said. "You touch the puck you're going to get booed. Avs fans are competitive and you kind of expect it."
Duchene was the third overall pick in 2009 by Colorado and scored 178 goals with the Avalanche, which is seventh on the franchise's all-time list.
It was an awkward parting for Duchene, whose desire to leave was fueled in part by not wanting to be involved in another rebuilding project with Colorado. His Senators squad finished with the second-fewest points last season, while the Avalanche made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.
"What's in the past is in the past. I've moved on," Duchene said. "I don't think I've ever been happier playing the game and happier with my personal life.
"I'm happy. That's what I was searching for. That's what I've found. We'll see what my future holds. I've really enjoyed playing in Ottawa."