ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche will be sorry not to see the Minnesota Wild on the schedule anymore during the regular season.
MacKinnon scored his 33rd goal of the season, J.T. Compher had his first career two-goal game and Colorado dominated Minnesota on the scoreboard again during a 5-1 victory Tuesday night.
Semyon Varlamov made 33 saves for the Avalanche. Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Jost also scored for Colorado, which has won the past three meetings this season by a combined tally of 19-4.
“I don’t think there’s any love lost, but I guess we got hot on offense three games in a row,” MacKinnon said about the rivalry. “At the end of the day, we just took two points. We’re not really worried about the dramatics of it. Obviously, it’s nice to come in here and win. We don’t do that very often.”
The Avalanche have points in 10 of their past 11 games (6-1-4) and are three points behind the Wild for third place in the Central Division. They pulled into a tie with Dallas (82 points) for the first wild card in the Western Conference.
“We know every night we’re talking about how big this game is, we’re going to go into the next game talking about how big that one is, and they just keep getting bigger and bigger here at the end of the season,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “So to be able to carve out points, especially on the road, it’s real important. Our guys are coming together as a group and we like what we’re seeing, so hopefully we can keep this thing going.”
Mikko Koivu scored his 13th goal of the season for Minnesota, which has lost just three times at home in regulation since Nov. 14.
Devan Dubnyk made 17 saves for the Wild in an intense game that featured several scrums after the whistle and both teams getting hit with matching roughing penalties – twice.
“There’s a rivalry there for sure and they like to talk a lot from the bench, so it obviously gets guys going,” Dubnyk said. “But that’s fine. If we need to take a couple runs at them, that’s fine.”
MacKinnon was held scoreless in the first meeting between the teams when Minnesota won at home on Nov. 24 in a shootout. But the Avalanche also control their home ice and earned a pair of wins in Colorado by scoring seven goals in each game, the most recent a 7-1 victory on March 2.
MacKinnon had three goals and five assists in the previous two meetings and gave the Avalanche a two-goal advantage on Tuesday by scoring just 11 seconds into the third period. MacKinnon picked up a loose puck and beat Koivu down the ice for an open shot and slid the puck under Dubnyk.
Compher opened the scoring in the first with his first goal in 17 games and had one of three Colorado goals in the third, two that came on the power play.
The Wild had 10 of the first 11 shots and outshot the Avalanche 34-22 in the game but couldn’t solve Varlamov.
“We can be happy we don’t play them again,” Minnesota forward Jason Zucker said. “But realistically, if it comes playoff time, we have to figure something out. We can’t just have a mental block against one team.”
NOTES: Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon left early in the third period after crashing hard into the boards. Spurgeon’s legs were spread apart and split further after hitting the boards. He was helped off the ice and didn’t return. After the game, coach Bruce Boudreau would only say it wasn’t a knee or ankle injury. … Wild rookie D Nick Seeler returned to the lineup after missing three games with a right biceps strain. Gustav Olofsson was scratched. … Spencer Martin was recalled from the American Hockey League and dressed as Colorado’s backup goaltender, with Jonathan Bernier (head) scratched.
Avalanche: At the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
Wild: At the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night.
By BRIAN HALL
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