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In a matchup between the top two picks of the 2013 draft, those players — Nathan MacKinnon (No. 1) and Aleksander Barkov (No. 2) — accounted for all the goals in the Avalanche’s 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers at the Pepsi Center.
MacKinnon scored twice and Colorado played a penalty-free game through two periods to defeat the Panthers for the second time in a week. The Avs, who won 7-3 on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., snapped a three-game losing streak at home and improved to 15-14-2 overall.
MacKinnon logged a team-high 14:25 after two periods and 22:03 for the game. He produced his third two-goal game of the season and had several chances at the hat trick. He doubled-shifted most of the game as coach Jared Bednar continues to go with just 11 forwards and ride his best player.
“He doubled up almost the whole game and made the most of his ice time, for sure,” Bednar said.
Exactly two minutes after MacKinnon was robbed by the quick glove of Panthers goalie James Reimer early in the third period, MacKinnon gave Colorado a 2-1 lead by driving to the net and putting the puck under Reimer’s blocker-side armpit. MacKinnon’s team-high 13th of the season and second of the game came at 6:44 of the third period.
“Yeah, it was a great save,” MacKinnon said of Reimer’s heroics at 4:44. “I wish I stayed a little bit further to the right side of the post and put it in. But I’m obviously happy to get that back on the short side a little later.”
Barkov tied the game with a short-handed goal at 10:27 of the second period. The Finn logged 21:59 and produced three shots. He did not play against the Avs in Florida because of injury.
“I think Barkov is an awesome player,” MacKinnon said. “He’s so big and skilled, definitely one of the best two-way guys in the league. Florida definitely didn’t go wrong with picking him. I hope the Avs didn’t feel like they went wrong with me. I think we both found homes, me in Colorado and him in Florida. No rivalry, though; we only see him twice a year. Maybe if he was in the division or something it would be more of that.”
Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (32 saves) had one of his best games of the season.
After a scoreless first period, MacKinnon put the Avs in front with a scorching blast after a pass from Tyson Barrie at 3:15 of the second. During pregame warm-up, MacKinnon and Barrie were the last players off the ice, practicing those very one-timers.
Colorado’s lead didn’t last long. The Avs went on the power play at 9:29 but allowed a short-handed goal at 10:27. Rookie defenseman Sam Girard, 19, is bound to learn from his blunder. He skated at half-speed to retrieve the puck below the Avs’ end line, despite seeing forechecker Jared McCann coming. Girard collected the puck but didn’t have enough separation or speed to outrace McCann, who poke-checked the puck free and dished in front to Barkov, who one-timed it past Varlamov to tie it up.
“He’s a young guy and playing in a special situation on the power play,” Bednar said of Girard, who played just 11:14. “We were slow on our change, too — I don’t know if you guys caught that — but guys were coming off the ice and we were slow to get on. He went back for it, was a little casual with it and a good player tracked him down and created the turnover … He was a little sleepy on that one (but) we bounced back from it.”
From the outset, Florida controlled play. The Avs didn’t produce their first shot until 6:45 into the game. But the Panthers went on to commit the only two penalties of the frame and Colorado ended up outshooting the visitors 16-12. The second period, however, was a different story. The Avs only produced three shots, despite having the only power play of the frame.
MacKinnon took over in the third. And the Avs held on for their third victory in the last four games. Tags: