July 21st, 2024

Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen takes offence to comments from teammate’s dad, breaks out of slump

By Pat Graham, The Associated Press on December 12, 2023.

Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen, second from left, watches his shot go into for a goal as, from left, Calgary Flames center Nazem Kadri, defenseman Dennis Gilbert and goaltender Dan Vladar defend in the third period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) – Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen said he had added incentive for his big game Monday night after taking offence to comments from the dad of one of his teammates concerning his off-season work ethic.

Ismo Lehkonen, a hockey analyst and the father of injured Avalanche forward Artturi Lehkonen, told Finnish public broadcaster YLE earlier Monday that Rantanen’s recent slump may be because “he didn’t have a terribly swell summer.” Rantanen responded with a goal and two assists, including a pass that helped set up the winner by Nathan MacKinnon in a 6-5 comeback win over the Calgary Flames.

“It feels good. It’s actually one thing where I got a lot of extra energy,” Rantanen told media after the game. “One of our Finnish NHL player’s dad was talking (expletive) about me in the media, that I didn’t train last summer like I used to do. (He) was making things up. That was for him. If you talk (expletive), it’s going to come back at you.”

Rantanen’s teammate and fellow countryman, Artturi Lehkonen, has been sidelined with a neck injury since Nov. 9 when he crashed headfirst into the boards. They were both integral pieces when the Avalanche won the 2022 Stanley Cup title.

In a translation of the story on the YLE website, Ismo Lehkonen said of Rantanen: “There were a lot of (parties) going on, he had to be in Helsinki and all that. He probably wanted to cool down on purpose after hard years, and maybe he didn’t do sports quite the same way as before.”

The 27-year-old Rantanen leads the team with 13 goals despite a recent slump. His game-tying tally in the third period Monday was his first goal since Nov. 22.

Before the game against Calgary, Rantanen, who had an Avalanche record 55 goals last season, said breaking out of a drought is all about learning from past games but not dwelling on them.

“It’s tough when you want to be effective and you want to score and you want to help because that’s my role, to help the team offensively,” said Rantanen, whose team leads the Central Division. “It rubs you the wrong way mentally, but that’s when good players, great players – you’ve got to just stick with it. You can’t fold, you can’t quit because nothing is going your way. “¦ You’ve just got to stay with it.”

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar complimented Rantanen’s performance after Monday’s game, saying the 6-foot-4, 215-pound forward was “a horse tonight.” Bednar said Rantanen took a step in the right direction in the previous game when he took six shots in a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia. Rantanen had eight shots Monday against Calgary to help the Avalanche snap a two-game slide.

“Oftentimes, when you start doing things the right way, it doesn’t just turn around overnight. You have to stick with it,” Bednar explained. “You have to believe that will get you out of your slump.”

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Associated Press Writer Jari Tanner in Helsinki contributed to this report.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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