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Avalanche hangs on to defeat San Jose to extend winning streak – The Denver Post

Extending its winning streak to eight games seemed like a sure thing 22 minutes into the game Thursday night, but the Avalanche had to scratch and claw for it after surviving an impressive comeback by the San Jose Sharks at the Pepsi Center.

Behind Nathan MacKinnon’s two goals and eighth three-point performance of his remarkable season, the Avs prevailed 5-3 to for their eighth consecutive win, the third-longest streak in club history. Colorado nearly blew a 4-0 lead, allowing three consecutive goals before getting the game’s final one from left wing Matt Nieto with 3:14 to play.

“It was a good test for us,” MacKinnon, the NHL’s second-leading scorer, said after tightening the scoring race to four points behind Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov. “Down the stretch, they scored a couple goals. They broke (the shutout) up in the second, a couple in the third and all of the sudden it’s a one-goal game. They had like seven power plays so that’s obviously tough to give the fifth-ranked power play but our PK stopped every one of them, which was fantastic. It was a collective effort tonight.”

Colorado has scored first in all eight victories during its streak and outscored its opponents a combined 34-13. The Avs have not trailed during the streak, the longest stretch of consecutive wins without trailing in Quebec/Colorado history.

MacKinnon’s right winger, Mikko Rantanen, also had a three-point night with a goal and two assists; and second line Nieto had a goal and an assist. Nieto’s goal at 16:46 of the third period stopped the bleeding — and it was profuse.

“We won the first half of the game. They won the second half and our goalie was a difference-maker tonight,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said.

BOX SCORE: Avalanche 5, Sharks 3

Goalie Jonathan Bernier (44 saves) was outstanding to extend his winning streak to seven games, making some of his best saves to prevent San Jose from getting its fourth goal and tying it up. The Sharks were 0-of-7 on the power play, but fed off Colorado’s penalties to dominate the second half of the game.

Bernier, who has technically been playing for the injured Semyon Varlamov, can’t recall if he previously won seven straight games in his career — primarily because he doesn’t usually start that many consecutive games. “The thing is, even when you get rolling, even when I was in Toronto and playing a lot, you usually get a rest,” he said. “But now Varly’s not there so it’s kind of nice I get to be on the roll and play every night. It feels good.”

The Avs, who took their 4-0 lead just 1:34 into the second period, only produced 16 shots through two periods. But they nevertheless controlled the first half of the game by burying their chances and avoided getting hemmed in their own zone. It was an end-to-end affair but Colorado was more opportunistic.

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