DENVER (AP) — Artturi Lehkonen had a goal and an assist, Logan O’Connor and Andre Burakovsky also scored and the NHL-leading Colorado Avalanche won their eighth straight game, 3-1 over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. Pavel Francouz had 26 saves for Colorado, which has a league-best 114 points with eight games remaining. The Avalanche are four points behind the 2000-01 team that set the franchise record for points in a season. That team went on to win the Stanley Cup, beating the Devils in seven games in the finals.
Colorado has a four-point lead over the Florida Panthers in the race for the President’s Trophy, awarded to the team with the most points. The Panthers have played one less game than the Avalanche.
“We’re still fighting for that first overall, as they are,” coach Jared Bednar said. “I mean, they’re scoring a bunch of goals every night so that they’re going to be a challenge for whoever they face in the first round.”
Jesper Bratt scored for New Jersey, which had its two-game winning streak halted. Andrew Hammond stopped 25 shots for the Devils.
Colorado seized control with a dominant second period, when it outshot New Jersey 14-4 and scored three times.
O’Connor made it 1-0 on a rebound at 3:07, his seventh of the season. Burakovsky scored his 22nd at 7:45 as Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton knocked the net off of its moorings.
“I had to look at the replay to figure out what happened because I was confused when the net was on the ground after and didn’t know if it did go in or not,” Hammond said. “It was confusing and unfortunately it did count.”
Lehkonen’s 16th of the year and second with Colorado made it 3-0 at 14:35.
“It’s fun to get points, but as long as the team keeps winning it’s all it matters,” Lehkonen said.
Bratt’s 24th goal of the season at 11:39 of the third period spoiled Francouz’s shutout bid.
“We stepped up in the third period and we played harder,” Bratt said. “When we play a fast-paced game and don’t turn pucks over on the blue line and get them deep we create some scoring chances. You can’t do 20-, 30-minute good game against this kind of team.”
Members of the national champion University of Denver hockey team were featured throughout the game. Three seniors from the team dropped the ceremonial first puck.
The rest of team was given an ovation when they were shown on the jumbotron sitting in a suite with the championship trophy. During the first intermission, three players participated in a fan contest.
The Pioneers won the program’s ninth NCAA title with a 5-1 win over Minnesota State in Boston on Saturday night.
Colorado’s newest forward, Ben Meyers, spoke before the game. Meyers signed a two-year free agent contract on Wednesday after playing in the Frozen Four with the University of Minnesota last weekend.
“The plan is just keep being with the team here in Colorado,” Meyers said. “I don’t know how many games I’ll play, and I don’t know what the plan is going to be for playoffs seeing as I’m not eligible to play, but I’m just excited to be with the team now, and I think it’ll just work itself out.”
NOTES: Colorado’s Cale Makar had an assist to tie Steve Duchesne for most points by a defenseman in franchise history. Duchesne had 83 points for Quebec in 1992-93. … The Avalanche paid tribute to New Jersey defenseman Ryan Graves during a timeout in the first period. Graves was traded to the Devils last summer ahead of the expansion draft. That allowed Colorado to protect its core defensemen from being picked by the Seattle Kraken. Graves took a skate to the chin during the game and got stitches afterward. … New Jersey’s last win in Denver was Dec. 17, 2017.
New Jersey: At the Seattle Kraken on Saturday night.
Colorado: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
By MICHAEL KELLY Associated Press
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