MacKinnon scores twice, Avalanche beat reeling Red Wings 5-1
AP Sports Writer
DENVER — This illustrates just how well things have been going for Nathan MacKinnon: He fanned on a shot, got it back, skated to the other side, launched the puck toward the net, hit a defender and in it goes.
“Lucky,” he said.
They all count the same.
MacKinnon kept up his torrid scoring with two goals and an assist, Semyon Varlamov was sharp in making 37 saves and the Colorado Avalanche extended Detroit’s skid to 10 straight games by beating the Red Wings 5-1 on Sunday.
Gabriel Landeskog, Blake Comeau and Tyson Barrie also scored to help the Avalanche remain in playoff position with 10 games remaining. The Avs have 86 points after finishing with a league-low 48 last season.
“I like the way we’re playing. A lot of good. There’s a lot of good,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We’re competing harder than we’ve competed all year I feel like during this stretch. There’s a sense of urgency to our game.”
MacKinnon remains among the league’s top scoring leaders with 89 points. His goal in the second period gave Colorado a 3-0 lead and came on a backhand with Niklas Kronwall trying to cover him.
The defenseman couldn’t.
The 22-year-old MacKinnon sealed the win with his 38th of the season in the third period — on a wraparound that hit off a Detroit defenseman and deflected in.
It’s just the way things have been going for him.
Soon after, he was serenaded with “MVP” chants. His coach doesn’t disagree after MacKinnon became the first Colorado player to score more than 36 goals in a season since 2002-03, when Milan Hejduk had 50.
“I can’t imagine there’s another player that means more to their team and doing more for their team than what Nate’s doing for us,” Bednar said. “That’s just the way I see it. He is the driving force to our offense and it’s consistent.”
Justin Abdelkader had a goal for the Red Wings, who fell to 0-9-1 during a winless streak in which they’ve been outscored by a 41-19 margin. It’s the team’s longest winless streak since a 12-game run in 1989.
“We’re so far back, but every time we put on the Red Wings logo, you go out and play the hardest you can,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said.
Varlamov showed no signs of fatigue despite playing in his 17th straight game (15 starts). He’s been pressed into more duty of late with backup Jonathan Bernier sidelined by a concussion.
Barrie’s goal late in the third came with a two-man advantage and extended his points streak to 10 straight games. Abdelkader, who was in the penalty box, was given a misconduct after the goal and sent to the locker room. He slammed his stick on the way out.
“It’s frustration. It’s not fun,” Abdelkader said. “We’ve just got to continue to stick together here. It’s not one guy, it’s not two guys, it’s not three guys that are going to do it. It’s a team of 20.”
Colorado remains tough at home, improving to 15-2-1 over its last 18 games at the Pepsi Center.
The Avs scored on a pair of tip-ins during a dominant first period — one by Landeskog and another by Comeau.
An injury-riddled Colorado team received a big boost with defenseman Erik Johnson and forward Vladislav Kamenev returning to the ice Sunday. It didn’t take Johnson long to make his presence felt, dishing out a big hit in the opening seconds. He’s been sidelined by an upper-body injury since he was hurt against Edmonton on Feb. 18.
Kamenev has been out since November with a broken arm. He was acquired as part of the three-team trade that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa.
“Right now we are feeling very confident,” Barrie said.
NOTES: Detroit D Jonathan Ericsson played in his 600th career NHL game. … Red Wings goaltender Jared Coreau made 26 stops. … Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen each had two assists. … D Patrik Nemeth took a high-stick to the face in the third period and appeared to lose a tooth.
Red Wings: Host Philadelphia on Tuesday night after concluding a five-game trip.
Avalanche: At Chicago on Tuesday night before returning home for two games.
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