DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Avalanche needed somebody to step up to help their postseason hopes. They got two big performances before a crucial road trip.
Philipp Grubauer made 22 saves for his third shutout in his last five starts, and the Avalanche beat the New Jersey Devils 3-0 on Sunday to end a two-game skid.
“We need wins and that was a good step in the right direction,” Grubauer said. “We can’t hope for another team to lose for us to get in. We have to keep playing the right way. Every shift for every guy matters.”
Tyson Barrie scored twice as Colorado (31-29-12) stayed in the mix for a second straight playoff appearance. Nathan MacKinnon scored his 37th goal and also had an assist to reach the 90-point mark for the second straight season.
The Avalanche trail Arizona by four points for the second wild card in the Western Conference with 10 games to go. Colorado plays Minnesota and Dallas on the road in the next three days, and then hosts the Coyotes on March 29.
There are five teams within six points of the two wild-card slots out West.
“Those games become must-win games,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “It’s not win 10 in a row. Win the game against Arizona and you’re right behind them, then you can make up the ground. Those games become huge and we’re going to have to play our best hockey.
“I have faith that we can pull this off, that we can do it. We’re going to fight to the bitter end to try and get it done.”
Cory Schneider stopped 31 shots for New Jersey. The Devils, who were eliminated from playoff contention Friday night despite winning at Vancouver, had just five shots in the first period.
Barrie gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead with a wrist shot at 2:22 of the second period. He got another goal at 11:05 when he sent the puck to the front of the net and it bounced off two New Jersey players and by Schneider.
“You see our guy there and maybe don’t react as quickly or don’t expect what will happen,” Schneider said. “You have to be ready for anything. This one came off a little hotter than I thought it might. Just a tough bounce.”
Barrie now has 70 career goals, second all-time among defensemen in Colorado history.
Schneider came off for an extra skater with a little more than two minutes left. MacKinnon sealed it with an empty-net goal at 18:26.
Grubauer has recorded each of his three shutouts this season since Feb. 23. He has nine in his career.
He faced just five shots in the third period when New Jersey was trying to rally.
“He has certainly stepped up. You see how athletic he can be and how athletic he is,” Colorado defenseman Ian Cole said. “It was good to be able to help out and make sure some of his saves were easier as the game went on.”
New Jersey started its four-game trip with a 9-4 loss at Calgary but bounced back to win two of the last three.
“It shows you there’s a group in there that cares and works,” coach John Hynes said. “After that Calgary game, to come back and win those next two games speaks to where we’re at culturally and where the guys are bought-in wise.”
NOTES: MacKinnon has 91 points after recording 97 points in 74 games last season. He has nine points in his last six games. He is the second Avalanche player to have consecutive 90-point seasons, matching Peter Forsberg (1997-98 and 1998-99). … Barrie’s last two-goal game came on Dec. 18, 2017, against Pittsburgh. … The Devils have not won three straight games since Dec. 27-31.
Devils: Host the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
Avalanche: At Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
By MICHAEL KELLY Associated Press
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