DENVER (AP) – Nathan MacKinnon had two goals and Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots, including several big saves down the stretch, to help the Colorado Avalanche hold off the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Saturday for their third straight win.
It was MacKinnon’s first two-goal game. Jamie McGinn and Erik Johnson also scored for the Avalanche, who have 56 points at the halfway point of the season, second-most in team history behind the 2000-01 team.
Johnson’s shot from the blue line at 5:45 of the second bounced past Antti Niemi and ended the goaltender’s day. Niemi was pulled after allowing three goals and Alex Stalock took over, promptly allowing MacKinnon’s second goal 14 seconds later to make it a 4-0 game.
Couture made it a one-goal game at 5:44 of the third when he knocked in a loose puck over a sprawled out Varlamov. The Sharks pulled Stalock with just over a minute left, only to struggle to get the puck into Colorado’s zone. And when they did, Varlamov turned it aside.
Jan Hejda drew a penalty for interference with 4:02 remaining and Pavelski had a chance to tie it, getting open in the slot, but Varlamov stopped it with his chest, along with a rebound.
It was quite an entertaining second period for the fans who braved the chill and the snow to show up at the Pepsi Center.
The opening part of the period was all Avalanche as McGinn scored off a Sharks turnover, Johnson added another on a knuckleball of a shot that skipped past Niemi and MacKinnon knocked in a wrist shot to stake Colorado to a four-goal lead.
On the ensuing faceoff, Andrew Desjardins struck John Mitchell in the upper thigh with his stick, setting off a scuffle at center ice. That seemed to fire up the listless Sharks, who quickly scored two goals to make it a 4-2 game at the end of the second period.
No surprise, Pavelski scored one of the goals on a power play with an assist from Joe Thornton. Those two players flourish when they play the burgundy and blue, with Pavelski scoring his ninth goal in 26 games against Colorado. Thornton has at least a point in 12 straight games against the Avalanche.
Marleau added another goal midway through the second period. He also had two assists.
With his second goal of the game, MacKinnon moved past San Jose’s Tomas Hertl for most points (26) among rookies. Hertl is sidelined after undergoing surgery earlier this week to repair damaged ligaments in his right knee.
Gabriel Landeskog had an assist on Johnson’s goal and has at least a point in six straight games, tying a career high.
The Avalanche scored on the power play at 15:28 of the first period when MacKinnon deflected a shot past Niemi.
NOTES: San Jose F Tommy Wingels missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury. … Colorado FPaul Stastny contributed two assists as nine different Avs players had at least a point. … Avs coach Patrick Roy said on the team’s website that F Alex Tanguay (knee, hip) will skate on Monday or Tuesday. “If it goes well, he’ll keep going,” Roy said. “If not, probably going to have to have surgery for his hip. That’s where we are.”
– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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