MacKinnon's speed helps Avalanche beat Wild 4-2 to take 2-0 lead in series
Sunday, Apr 20, 2014 04:00 am
DENVER - Teenager Nathan MacKinnon is growing up fast. Almost as fast as he skates.
The speedy 18-year-old delivered another stellar performance for the Colorado Avalanche, scoring his first NHL post-season goal and dishing out three assists in a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
The baby-faced forward, who was the No. 1 pick last summer, anchored a line that has propelled the Avalanche to a 2-0 lead in the series. MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog and Paul Stastny combined for all four goals and six assists Saturday.
"That line was on fire tonight," Avs coach Patrick Roy said. "They were moving the puck really well, skating well."
That's because the Wild simply couldn't catch up to MacKinnon, who zipped through their defence. He now has seven points in the series.
"The skills he's got, the way he skates — I haven't seen anything like it," said Landeskog, who scored twice.
MacKinnon lives in the basement of Jean-Sebastien Giguere's house and car pools to work with the backup goaltender every day. And while he may not play like a kid, away from the rink, well, that's a different story.
"You realize he's 18," said Stastny, who had a goal and three assists. "He's hungry, that's what makes him a good player. He doesn't rely on his skill."
The kid has certainly been clutch — and having a good time, too. He's feeling no pressure.
"Everybody's having a blast because we're winning," MacKinnon said.
A game the Avalanche seemed to have well in hand turned a little tense late in the third. P.A. Parenteau thought he'd given the Avalanche a 4-1 lead when he scored an empty-net goal.
Only, he was ruled offsides by the linesman on what appeared to be a wrong call.
Then with 1:19 remaining, Marco Scandella made it a one-goal game.
No worries, though, Stastny quickly sealed it in the waning seconds remaining when he scored an empty-netter — off a feed from MacKinnon, of course.
Not that the Avs were overly concerned, given the way Semyon Varlamov was playing. He finished with 30 saves.
"He was huge," Stastny said. "That's stuff we expect from him. We feel bad we let them score that second one."
Landeskog's second goal of the game gave Colorado a 3-1 lead with 8:01 remaining in the second and led the Wild to pull erratic starter Ilya Bryzgalov. Backup Darcy Kuemper stopped all 14 shots he faced, possibly opening up a goaltender controversy.
This was the first time Kuemper's played since March 27 due to an upper body injury.
Asked if he will be starter as the series shifts to Minnesota for Game 3 on Monday, Kuemper said: "I'll have to wait and see, but I hope so. It's playoff hockey, so you want to play."
Wild coach Mike Yeo didn't address the issue after the game, saying only, "(Kuemper) looked great. ... So for him to get in and get that opportunity, it was good."
Varlamov bottled up the Wild most of the night to help Colorado hold serve at home. The Avs are 12-0 in playoff series when capturing the first two contests since relocating to the Mile High City in 1995-96.
In the opening game, Colorado rallied for a 5-4 win when Stastny scored the tying goal with 13.4 seconds remaining and then the OT winner.
This time, no late-game theatrics were necessary. No bold decisions by coach Patrick Roy, either.
Roy kept the line of Landeskog, Stastny and MacKinnon together. No surprise, really, since the trio shined since being paired late in Game 1.
"That was the story of the game," Yeo said of that line pairing.
Bryzgalov struggled in both games in Colorado, giving up eight goals on 45 shots.
Concerned about his game?
"What exactly you mean by concerned by your play?" Bryzgalov said.
Say anything to Kuemper?
"No, I just tell him great job," Bryzgalov said. "He ... sealed the door."
The Avalanche have adopted the motto "Why not us?" this season, putting the mantra on shirts, ball caps and even flashing it on the scoreboard. The slogan took root when Roy posed that question when he first came on board. It was taken to heart in October after former Avs defenceman Ray Bourque addressed the team at his restaurant in Boston.
"This motto became pretty big and something we started to believe in," Maxime Talbot said. "So, why not us?"
NOTES: Wild F Charlie Coyle gave the Wild an early 1-0 lead with his second goal of the series. ... Colorado will likely be without its leading scorer Matt Duchene (knee) for this series. ... MacKinnon tied the NHL record for most points in the opening two playoff games to start an NHL career.