Nathan MacKinnon eviscerates Wild defense in much-needed Avalanche victory

Corey Masisak, The Denver Post on

Published in Hockey

In a season full of spectacular performances, Nathan MacKinnon may have authored his masterpiece Tuesday night.

It wasn’t just that MacKinnon had at least four points for the eighth time this season, including seven times at Ball Arena. Or his third hat trick of the year. Or that he reached 50 goals for the first time in his career, or pulled within two points of the franchise record set 42 years ago.

It was how he dismantled the Minnesota Wild, a team that needed to avoid losing in regulation to keep its playoff chances. He didn’t just end the Wild’s season. MacKinnon systematically took apart a team that entered the night 10th in the NHL in goals allowed per game since John Hynes was named coach in late November.

Behind MacKinnon’s four points and three from both Cale Makar and Jonathan Drouin, the Avalanche shook off some suspect early work on the penalty kill and blitzed the Wild in a 5-2 victory.

The much-needed victory keeps Colorado’s faint hopes of winning the Central Division alive, but maybe more critically two points ahead of Winnipeg for second place with three games to play. The Jets will be in Denver on Saturday for the biggest game of the season to date.

Makar had a goal and two assists, giving him 87 points this season. That sets a new franchise record for defenseman, passing his previous mark from two seasons ago.

MacKinnon now has 51 goals and 137 points. He is two back of Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov for the league lead, and two back of Peter Stastny’s franchise record, set during the 1981-82 season.

His third goal of the night, with 51.6 seconds left in the second period, set off a lengthy celebration. Not only did the ice crew have to collect hundreds of hats from the ice, some alterations were needed along the glass behind the Minnesota net.

It was a chance for Avs faithful to voice their appreciation for MacKinnon’s brilliance. There were several M-V-P chants. The Beastie Boys blared from the sound speakers. It was a party, indeed. The good vibes were back after a couple of ugly losses.


MacKinnon’s first point came on a clever pass off the rebound of a Cale Makar shot while the Avalanche was on a power play. He slipped the puck to Artturi Lehkonen in the slot for an easy one-timer and a 1-0 lead.

Minnesota scored a pair of power-play goals in the second half of the first period, and the scene at the first intermission was considerably different. This wasn’t a perfect performance, but MacKinnon’s majesty made that seem like a distant memory less than 20 minutes of hockey later.

All three of MacKinnon’s goals put his ferocious skating ability on display. Each time there was a Minnesota defenseman between him and the Wild net when he collected the puck.

Each time, there was a Wild defenseman with a great view of the 29 on his back as he deposited the puck behind goalie Filip Gustavsson. Zach Bogosian, Brock Faber and Jacob Middleton joined a lengthy list of defensemen who have witnessed the speed and the fury with which MacKinnon turns a rush into another entry for his highlight reel.

The second MacKinnon score involved a wonderful behind-the-back pass in the neutral zone from Drouin, who established new career highs in assists (37) and points (56) in his own remarkable campaign. The other two were just one guy being a force of nature.

MacKinnon has a pair of four-goal games at Ball Arena this season. He’s had a career’s worth of magical moments for some players.

And still, this might have been his most impressive effort. At least until the next one.


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