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By The Skin of Their Teeth: MacKinnon Carries Avalanche to 4-3 win, Central Division Title

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The Colorado Avalanche didn’t make it easy on themselves against the Nashville Predators. After blowing a two goal lead, they spent most of the second half of the game on their heels.

But the Avalanche had someone on their team that the Predators had no match for: Nathan MacKinnon.

The superstar center capped off the best regular season of his career with a four point night, including a hat trick, leading the Avalanche to a 4-3 win over the Predators. His third goal, which set a career high for him in a single-season, came with just under two minutes left in the game, sending the Avalanche to another Central Division title. Every single goal he scored was highlight reel worthy, as he took the game over whenever his team needed him to.

Alexandar Georgiev, who Jared Bednar turned to with first place on the line, made 18 saves on his way to his 40th victory of the season. That ties him with Linus Ullmark for tops in the NHL.

With the win, the Avalanche will now take on the Seattle Kraken in round one. Get ready for the madness of playoff hockey, Avalanche fans.

First Period

With the division title on the line, the Avalanche came out flying. And on the first shift, they found the back of the net.

MacKinnon sent the puck to Devon Toews at the point. With a slew of players in front of Kevin Lankinen, he threw the puck towards the net. It snuck through a few players, and hit Dante Fabbro, bouncing off him and past Lankinen, giving the Avalanche the 1-0 lead.

Just under three minutes later, MacKinnon took matters into his own hands. He worked past Colton Sissons, and fought through some nasty slashes from the Nashville forward. After cutting to the net, he sent a shot up and over Lankinen, giving the Avalanche the two goal lead, and giving MacKinnon 40 goals on the year.

Kiefer Sherwood, the former Avalanche forward, got the Predators back in the game. After picking the puck off Jack Johnson along the wall, he turned towards the net and fired the puck over Alexandar Georgiev’s glove, making it 2-1.

With a little under seven minutes remaining in the period, MacKinnon restored the two goal lead for Colorado. And what a beauty of a goal it was.

After taking a bounce pass from Girard in the neutral zone, he bulled his way through both Nashville defenders. He got past them, and caught up to the puck just before Lankinen could get it. At full speed, he toe-dragged the puck and put it to his backhand, then fired it off Lankinen’s blocker and in. With his third point of the period, it was clear MacKinnon was entering playoff-mode.

The Avalanche dominated the first period, outshooting the Predators 18-4. All they needed to do was keep up the intensity and they would be Central Division champions. About that…

Second Period

The intensity the Avalanche came out with in the first period was non-existent in the second. Nashville came out with all the energy, and got themselves back in the game.

Just 2:32 into the period, Luke Evangelista was left all alone coming off the bench. Novak hit him with a pass, and the young forward wired a shot over Georgiev’s glove, making it 3-2.

Just a few minutes later, a Kurtis MacDermid penalty gave the Predators a powerplay, allowing Sherwood tied the game up. He took a pass from Trenin in the slot, and one-timed it through some bodies in front and past Georgiev for his second of the game.

After generating 18 shots in the first, the Avalanche were held to only five in the second, and looked sluggish. They needed a big third period to win the division.

Third Period

Nashville gave the Avalanche every opportunity at the start of the third period to put the game away. The Predators took two early penalties, but the Avalanche couldn’t capitalize on either, keeping the home team in the game.

Georgiev did not have his best game, but his biggest save of the game came late, when he got across and robbed McDonagh on a backdoor chance. He got a little lucky that McDonagh didn’t appear to put it where he wanted, but all that matters is he made the save.

That save set the stage for Nathan MacKinnon to play the role of hero. Naturally, the game-winning goal came from the Rantanen/MacKinnon combination, a duo that combined for 216 points on the year.

Rantanen made a nice play in the defensive zone, breaking up a pass from Nashville and springing MacKinnon on a 2-on-1 rush. MacKinnon carried it in, and as he should have, fired it at the net. I’m not sure he really gave any thought to passing to Rantanen. His shot was labeled perfectly on the blocker side, beating Lankinen for his third goal of the night and his career-high 42nd goal. The emotion showed by MacKinnon said it all.

The Predators had some late chances, but missed the net with just a few seconds left, allowing the Avalanche to walk away with a 4-3 win and the Central Division title.

Now, the focus turns to the postseason. The Avalanche will take Saturday off before returning to practice to prepare for the Seattle Kraken.

Game one is Tuesday, April 18, and starts at 8 PM MST.

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Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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