Rantanen scores twice, Avalanche cool off Golden Knights 3-0
DENVER (AP) — Mikko Rantanen knew his goal was quick to start the game.
“Was it 5 seconds in?” he inquired.
Not quite that quick.
Rantanen scored twice, including 14 seconds into the game, and Alexandar Georgiev stopped 31 shots to help the Colorado Avalanche beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-0 on Monday night for their sixth straight win.
Rantanen reached the 40-goal mark in a season for the first time in his career. His quick score tied for the seventh-fastest goal to start a game in Avalanche history.
“It’s nice to start the game like that,” said Rantanen, whose father was in attendance from Finland.
Nathan MacKinnon added an empty-net goal with a shot from his own end with 3:27 remaining. He extended his points streak to eight straight games.
The reigning Stanley Cup champions are rounding into form as they climb up the standings. The Avalanche finished February with a 7-1-2 record, making this the 26th month in a row the team has gone .500 or better. It matches the franchise record set from March 1994 to February 1998.
“We’re currently in the best stretch of hockey we’ve played this year,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “It’s also the best lineup that we’ve had all year long, with the guys getting healthy.”
Georgiev posted his third shutout of the season and first since Dec. 19 against the New York Islanders.
Ivan Barbashev played 16:40 in his Vegas debut after being acquired as part of a deal with St. Louis on Sunday. He began on a line with Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault.
Adin Hill had 31 saves for the Golden Knights, who lost in regulation for the first time since Jan. 27. They’re now 6-1-3 over their last 10 games.
“For whatever reason, we just didn’t play well,” Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez said.
Rantanen’s 40th goal of the season came on a liner in the second period off a cross-ice pass from J.T. Compher. By reaching 40 goals in 58 games, Rantanen became the fastest Colorado player to hit the mark since the franchise moved to Denver in 1995-96. He broke the mark held by Joe Sakic, who reached 40 goals in his 65th game in ’95-96.
“I’m not going to celebrate (40 goals) too much tonight,” Rantanen said. “More more about the win and the two points. … If you start thinking about those (individual marks) too much, you go away from the team game and I don’t want to do that.”
Rantanen got things rolling before some fans were even settled into their seats. He capitalized on a miscue from Hill, who tried to fling the puck deep from behind the net. Rantanen batted it down and lined it in. He’s scored in five straight games.
“We obviously spot them a goal — that never helps,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It was our best 10 minutes right after that; we actually played pretty well and generated some looks and looked like we could get ourselves back in the game. But it didn’t happen.”
Defenseman Jack Johnson rocketed up the standings in being dealt from a struggling Chicago team to the contending Avalanche on Sunday. Johnson helped the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup championship last season.
“I’m just trying to be a piece again, like last year — help out as much as I can,” Johnson said.
Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland didn’t divulge his level of concern for the return of captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s been sidelined all season with a knee injury.
“He’s doing everything he can to get back,” MacFarland said.
AROUND THE ICE
Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (head) skated Monday with the team in a red noncontact sweater. … D Kurtis MacDermid remains in concussion protocol. … Vegas forward Phil Kessel was called for an illegal check to the head of Colorado’s Andrew Cogliano in the second period. … Colorado coach Jared Bednar turns 51 on Tuesday.
Golden Knights: Start a three-game homestand Wednesday against Carolina.
Avalanche: Host New Jersey on Wednesday night.
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