ST. PAUL, Minn. — Star forward Nathan MacKinnon and the postseason-hungry Avalanche extended their respective points streak in style Tuesday night.
MacKinnon scored 11 seconds into the Avs’ three-goal third period to increase his points streak to nine games, and Colorado went on to victory in gaining points in its eighth straight game.
The Avs’ 5-1 triumph over the Minnesota Wild gave them 82 points, solidifying their Western Conference wild-card playoff spot and moving just three shy of the Wild in the Central Division race that guarantees three spots. Colorado has 13 remaining games; Minnesota 12.
“There’s a lot of urgency in our locker room and everyone feels very comfortable around each other,” said MacKinnon, who produced his 33rd goal — the most in club history since Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk had 36 and 35, respectively, in 2006-07. “It’s great. We’re a loose team but when it’s time to dial it in we do and tonight was a good example of that.”
Rookie forward J.T. Compher (two goals) and goalie Semyon Varlamov (33 saves) also played big roles in front of a disappointed partisan crowd of 19,171 at the Xcel Energy Center. The Avs, who were 4-for-4 in penalty killing and 2-of-3 on the power play, finished the regular season 3-0-1 against the Wild. Colorado won the previous two games 7-1 and 7-2 in Denver.
“It’s nice — we don’t love each other, by all means,” MacKinnon, who beat goalie Devan Dubnyk with a low shot from the right circle, said of the rivalry with the Wild. “At the end of the day we just need two points and we’re not really worried about the dramatics. Obviously, it’s nice to come in here and win. We don’t do that often.”
Minnesota entered the game 24-5-6 at home, which was tied for the most wins in the league earlier this week.
“I think that was a real good road game for us. We did a lot of good things throughout the game,” said Compher, who scored his 12th goal of the season in the first period on a delayed penalty in which he drew and his 13th on the power play in the third. “We didn’t have the power play until the end, but we stuck with it and had some huge kills on some of theirs and we were able to take advantage late.”
Compher’s second goal, at 13:26 of the third period, extended Colorado’s power-play streak to eight games. Rookie forward Tyson Jost added another power-play goal to make it 5-1 with 1:29 to play.
Varlamov, who made his 14th consecutive appearance, took a 2-1 lead into the third period and had two shots clang off iron beside him before the Avs turned the game into a route.
“Varly was really good in the first period in keeping us in it,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We were a little opportunistic — we had some guys make some nice plays and we just stuck with it. They got that goal 4-on-4 and we didn’t let it deflate us.”
The Avs led 1-0 after one period and took a 2-1 lead just 59 seconds after Minnesota tied it in the second. Defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who was on the ice in the 4-on-4 sequence that led to the Wild’s tying goal, got Colorado back in front with a big one-time blast off the feed of Blake Comeau at 14:55.
The Avs’ two-game trip concludes Thursday at St. Louis in another divisional affair. Colorado completes a back-to-back stretch Friday against the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center.