DENVER — Nathan MacKinnon is producing like one of the best players in the league, but it hasn’t been enough to prevent the Colorado Avalanche from hitting another lull before the holiday break.
Winnipeg took advantage of a couple of key mistakes and Connor Hellebuyck helped the Jets hang on Thursday night at Ball Arena for a 4-2 win, as the Avs lost for the fourth time in five games (1-2-2) for the first time this season.
Mistakes just before and after the first intermission, combined with a suddenly sputtering power play, were the biggest culprits against the Jets. This stretch doesn’t look as bad as the funk earlier in the year when Colorado lost five of seven with a couple of embarrassing blowouts, but it’s also not near the Avs’ peak performances, either.
Colorado had four chances on the power play in this game, including a 5-on-3 in the third period, but was unable to convert. The Avs did have a stretch of nine straight contests with a power-play goal, but this is now four straight without one. They’re 0 for 12 with the man advantage in that span.
Winnipeg grabbed the lead with 2.2 seconds left in the opening period after an unforced error. Avs defenseman Devon Toews tried to get the puck to MacKinnon along the left wall in the Colorado zone, but Axel Jonsson-Fjallby picked off the pass and fed Adam Lowry for a wide-open look from the slot.
The Jets extended their lead to 2-0 when Kyle Connor scored just 32 seconds into the second, making it goals on back-to-back Winnipeg shots on both sides of the intermission.
MacKinnon blew by a pair of Winnipeg defenders and beat Hellebuyck with a backhanded attempt to get the Avs on the board at 2:30 of the second period. It was MacKinnon’s 10th goal of the season, and rookie defenseman Sam Malinski collected his first NHL point on the play.
Joel Kiviranta scored with 31 seconds left in the second to get Colorado back within one at 3-2 after another excellent individual effort from MacKinnon. He carried the puck into the offensive zone, absorbed a hip check at full speed, regained control of the puck and sent a no-look pass to Kiviranta in front.
The Avs players thought Kiviranta’s shot went in immediately, but it was only confirmed after a whistle and review. It was the seventh straight Colorado goal that MacKinnon has either scored or assisted on, dating back to the first period in Anaheim last week.
MacKinnon now has a point in 10 straight contests. He did get off to a bit of a slow start this season, at least by his standards, with nine points in the first 10 contests. But MacKinnon is now scoring at a 140-point pace since (27 in 16 games), and has only had one night without a point in that span.
Malinski got in the way on Winnipeg’s third goal. He was trying to box out a Jets player at the edge of the crease, but he ended up providing a screen for a Josh Morrissey shot from the left point. Alexandar Georgiev gave Malinski a whack on the leg with his goalie stick immediately after the puck went in the net.
Valeri Nichushkin missed a second consecutive game because of an illness. Cale Makar (lower body) and Andrew Cogliano (lower body) both returned to the lineup. Bowen Byram, who missed the third period Tuesday, was able to avoid missing a game.
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