ANAHEIM, Calif. — Czech Republic countryman Pavel Francouz and Martin Kaut had memorable nights Friday in the Avalanche’s 1-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.
Francouz, a goalie who earlier in the day signed a two-year contract extension worth $4 million, produced a 26-save shutout and Kaut, a 20-year-old forward, had the game-winning assist for his first career NHL point in his second game in the league.
“We don’t have many (Czech) players in the NHL. It’s a sad fact for our country that we’re getting less and less players in NHL,” Francouz said after his first career NHL shutout. “So every time we have someone step up and play well like Martin today — nice play, nice pass — for the game-winning point, I’m very sure the people in Czech are going to be happy tonight.”
Added Kaut: “For us it’s a big night, but for our country, too. We are small country.”
Francouz, now Colorado’s clear-cut No. 1 goalie, has allowed one goal or fewer in three of his last four games. Kaut created a turnover and assisted on J.T. Compher’s goal, his ninth of the season.
The Avs, who were beginning a two-game Southern California road trip, climbed to 77 points — second in the Central Division and Western Conference behind the St. Louis Blues.
Compher scored at 16:38 of the second period, one-timing Kaut’s circle-to-circle feed. Kaut intercepted a clearing pass from Ducks defenseman Lindholm, who was trying to pass to a teammate in the neutral zone. Kaut stepped in front of the pass just inside Anaheim’s blue line, took a couple of strides before dishing off to the left when it appeared he was going to shoot.
“I just tried to read the D on the breakout and (intercepted the pass),” Kaut said. “I saw J.T. and he scored.”
He added: “For sure, I feel amazing. But I’m so glad for Frankie for his first NHL shutout. And I got my first NHL point. It’s good for us.”
The Avs continued to play without three key forwards in Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri and Matt Calvert, as well as Philipp Grubauer, who began the season as the No. 1 goaltender.
Kaut and Sheldon Dries, who was recalled from the minors on Thursday, were stepping in for the injured forwards along with Vladislav Kamenev, who is typically Colorado’s extra forward.
In the first 20 minutes, both teams produced 10 shots and were 0-of-1 on the power play. The Avs slowly began to take over in the second period, putting 14 shots on goalie John Gibson in the middle frame.
“Second period, I thought our game came around in a big way. We started to execute on our forecheck and had some good O-zone time and create chances,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Great play on the forecheck (by Gabe Landeskog) and picking off a puck high in the zone by Kauter; makes a nice pass (and) it’s in the back of the net to get us going and it ended up being all we needed on the night.”
Footnotes. The Avs’ only healthy scratch was defenseman Mark Barberio. … The Avs improved to conference-best 19-9-2 on the road. … Colorado bused to Los Angeles after the game to its hotel in the L.A. Live area. The Avs will not have a morning skate at the Staples Center, which features an NBA matinee with the Los Angeles Clippers.