May 30th, 2024

MacKinnon has goal and assist to lead Avalanche to 6-2 win over Jets in Game 3

By Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press on April 26, 2024.

Winnipeg Jets' (left to right) Neal Pionk, Nate Schmidt and Nino Niederreiter celebrate Schmidt's goal against the Anaheim Ducks during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Friday, March 15, 2024. Head coach Rick Bowness says that Schmidt will be in the lineup for Game 3 on Friday night and fellow blueliner Logan Stanley will sit.THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche scored three goals in a span of six minutes early in the third period of a 6-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night at Ball Arena.

Nathan MacKinnon and Valeri Nichushkin got the rally started with power-play goals before Artturi Lehkonen gave Colorado a two-goal cushion. Ross Colton tacked on an insurance goal and Devon Toews iced the win with an empty-netter.

Zach Parise had the other goal for the Avalanche, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Alexander Georgiev made 22 saves for Colorado.

Josh Morrissey and Tyler Toffoli scored for the Jets, who got 34 saves from Connor Hellebuyck.

Winnipeg will try to even the first-round playoff series in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.

The Jets edged Colorado 7-6 in Game 1 but the Avalanche rebounded with a 5-2 victory to earn a split of the first two games at Canada Life Centre.

The Avalanche had the best home record in the NHL during the regular season at 31-9-1. Two of the nine regulation losses were to the Jets, including a 7-0 shellacking on April 13.

The white pompom-waving sellout crowd in the Mile High City was in strong voice for the Avalanche’s first home game of the post-season. The road side applied the early pressure though and was nearly rewarded.

Georgiev stopped Mason Appleton after a goalmouth scramble and denied Gabriel Vilardi on a wraparound attempt a short time later.

The Avalanche started to test Hellebuyck midway through the opening period. The Vezina Trophy favourite stopped Lehkonen on a clean look from the left side and caught a break when MacKinnon zinged one off the crossbar.

Hellebuyck made a pad save on a Josh Manson shot from the slot but the rebound kicked out to Parise, who one-timed it to open the scoring at 11:18.

The Jets had some good chances late in the stanza but Georgiev stood firm. He slid across the crease to deny Mark Scheifele’s shot from the faceoff circle as time expired.

Winnipeg’s second line of Toffoli, Sean Monahan and Nikolaj Ehlers combined for 185 points in the regular season but was held without a point in the series until early in the second period.

Toffoli flipped a backhand shot from a tight angle that somehow got behind Georgiev at 5:03. Ehlers had an assist.

The first penalty of the game didn’t come until midway through the game when Casey Mittelstadt was called for hooking Schiefele. The Jets converted with the man advantage as Morrissey’s one-timer from the point beat a screened Georgiev at 10:50.

Toffoli was sent in on a breakaway moments later but was stoned by the Bulgarian backstop. The Avalanche replied with a rush of their own but Hellebuyck stopped MacKinnon.

With Appleton off for tripping, Colorado tied the game at 2:11 of the third period. MacKinnon one-timed a shot from the point that went through the legs of a screened Hellebuyck.

Vilardi was given a double-minor after his stick caught Toews in the face and drew blood. Nichushkin roofed a shot over a sprawled Hellebuyck at 4:39.

Lehkonen made it a two-goal lead at 8:11 and Colton tallied at 12:36.

The Jets pulled Hellebuyck for an extra attacker with about four minutes left to play. Toews sent a puck the length of the ice into the empty cage at 16:25.

LINEUP CHANGES

The Jets inserted defenceman Nate Schmidt into the lineup after sitting the first two games as a healthy scratch. He replaced Logan Stanley and played on a pairing with Dylan Samberg.

Blueliner Samuel Girard returned to the Colorado lineup after missing nearly two weeks due to a concussion.

NORTHERN RETURN

The series will return to Winnipeg for Game 5 on Tuesday. If a sixth game is necessary, it would be played Thursday in Denver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2024.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on X.

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