Rantanen scores go-ahead goal, Avalanche beat Sharks 4-2
DENVER (AP) — Mikko Rantanen scored the go-ahead goal on a power play with 7:43 remaining, Pavel Francouz stopped 25 shots and the Colorado Avalanche beat the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on Thursday night.
Andre Burakovsky, Darren Helm and Alex Newhook also added goals for the Avalanche, who earned victory No. 27 at Ball Arena this season. They’re one away from tying the franchise record for home victories set in 2000-01 and matched in 2017-18.
Timo Meier and Brent Burns had goals for a Sharks team that was on the second night of a back-to-back. Kaapo Kahkonen was solid in net, turning back 42 of 46 shots in his second game for San Jose after being acquired from Minnesota on March 21.
Colorado has beaten the Sharks at home seven times in a row.
“They’re a good team over there. They’ve got a lot of firepower,” Meier said. “We’ve got to improve and bring more to beat a team like that.”
Rantanen lined a shot just past the glove of Kahkonen to give Colorado a 3-2 lead. His score extended Colorado’s power-play goal streak to nine straight games — the club’s longest since 2003.
“(Mikko) got better as the game went along,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “He comes up clutch on a big power-play goal.”
Rantanen’s 34th goal of the season was set up on a pinpoint pass from Nazem Kadri, who had just returned to the ice after taking a big hit along the boards earlier in the period. There was no call on the play, which perplexed Bednar.
“It’s a cross-check in the lower back eight feet off the boards and puts him head-first into another player when he doesn’t have the puck,” Bednar said. “To me, that’s a penalty all day. … Lucky he didn’t get hurt out of that.”
Kadri had two assists in the third period to notch his 26th multi-point game of the season. He trails Connor McDavid (37), Auston Matthews (30) and Leon Draisaitl (28) for the most this season, according to NHL Stats.
“To me, he’s a top player in the league,” Bednar said of Kadri.
Helm gave Colorado a 2-1 lead early in the third on a play set up when Valeri Nichushkin stole the puck. The advantage didn’t last as Burns tied it up with a shot through traffic.
Meier tied the game at 1 in the second courtesy of a nifty pass by Tomas Hertl, who was falling down near the net when he delivered the puck.
Newhook gave Colorado a 1-0 lead early in the second on a turn-around wrist shot. But he had to wait a moment to see if it counted after the Sharks challenged the play for goaltender interference. The officials took a look and upheld the goal.
“I thought they were going to take it back for sure,” Newhook cracked.
It was Newhook’s first score since Feb. 19.
NO FIGHT CLUB?
Nathan MacKinnon returned to the lineup for the Avs on Thursday, dodging a scare after appearing to hurt his hand in a fight last weekend against Minnesota’s Mathew Dumba and missing the game in Calgary to return home for more evaluation.
Bednar said he hasn’t had a conversation with MacKinnon about resisting the temptation to drop the gloves and fight.
“It’s hockey. It’s a physical sport,” Bednar said. “It would be like telling a linebacker in football, ‘Hey, you know, we’re almost in the playoffs so make sure you don’t hit anybody hard. You might hurt your shoulder.'”
Rantanen and defenseman Cale Makar were in the middle of some late-game pushing and shoving. Makar drew a penalty for roughing, along with San Jose’s Alexander Barabanov and Hertl.
The Avalanche assigned defenseman Bowen Byram to the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League on a conditioning loan. Byram (personal reasons) hasn’t played since Jan. 10.
Sharks coach Bob Boughner indicated forward Kevin Labanc (shoulder) could return as soon as this weekend.
Sharks: Start a three-game homestand Saturday against Dallas.
Avalanche: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
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