MacKinnon’s shootout goal gives Avs 2-1 win over Maple Leafs
TORONTO -- Nathan MacKinnon was the only scorer in the shootout as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1.
Mikko Rantanen scored in regulation for Colorado (38-22-6).
MacKinnon’s five-game goal streak came to an end, but his play carried Colorado to the win.
“Been playing awesome,” Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram said of MacKinnon, who entered with 15 goals in his last 15 games. “He’s the guy that our team follows. When he’s going, I feel like everyone else is sharper.”
Alexandar Georgiev made 17 saves for injury-ravaged Colorado (38-22-6), which has found its game since the All-Star break and climbed within five points of the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars with two games in hand.
“That dedication to the way we have to play to have success is the key to it,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said. “Some nights we’re as good as we want to be. Seems like recently we’ve wanted to win these hockey games. We know they’re important. Winning the division isn’t the be all, end all. But certainly to have short-term goals like that and chase down the teams that are in front of us is part of it.
“It’s part of playing with a little bit of pressure, even if it’s self-induced.”
Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto (40-18-9). Ilya Samsonov stopped 28 shots.
“There wasn’t a whole lot that we gave up,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “They checked extremely hard to show you what a Stanley Cup-winning team does in terms of the defending.
“They’re well-known for the offense that they can generate with their elite players, but they defend extremely hard and make it difficult on you to get to their net.”
After a frantic overtime in which both teams had terrific chances, MacKinnon beat Samsonov on a nice deke on the Avalanche’s second shot.
Georgiev then denied Mitch Marner for Colorado, which improved to 4-4 in shootouts. Toronto dropped to 0-2 in shootouts.
Coming off A 4-3 home loss to Buffalo on Monday in which Toronto held a 2-0 lead late in the second period, the Maple Leafs opened the scoring three minutes into the first when Rielly scored his third, after earlier hitting the post.
The Avalanche responded on a power play later in the period, when Rantanen’s pass went in off Toronto defenseman Jake McCabe for his 44th of the season.
Samsonov stopped Valeri Nichushkin on a short-handed breakaway in the second before Cale Makar nearly went end-to-end on a rush, but the puck trickled wide.
Georgiev matched his Russian counterpart at the other end by denying Rielly on a power play and Calle Jarnkrok from in close to keep things even through 40 minutes.
After the Maple Leafs killed two penalties early in the third, William Nylander and Auston Matthews had a good chance on Georgiev.
Ratanen’s 44 goals are the most by a Finnish-born player since Teemu Selanne scored 48 in 2006-07.
Marner factored in on the game-opening goal for the 19th time this season, which trails only MacKinnon (20) for the most among all players.
WAITING ON GABE
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who has yet to play this season, continues to work his way back from knee surgery.
Colorado head coach Jared Bednar said following Tuesday’s practice there’s still no timeline for the winger’s return.
“Making progress,” Bednar said. “Gonna keep grinding to get back as soon as he can. I don’t know when that will be. I don’t know if it’ll be regular season, beginning of post-season. It’s all going to be up to him.”
Luke Schenn returned to Scotiabank Arena as a member of the Maple Leafs for the first time in more than a decade.
Acquired from Vancouver prior to the trade deadline, the veteran defenseman rejoined the club after his wife recently gave birth to the couple’s third child.
The Leafs selected Schenn, who didn’t dress against Colorado, with the fifth overall pick in 2008 before trading him to Philadelphia in 2012.
“Coming into this dressing room, it’s surreal,” the 33-year-old said Wednesday morning. “You appreciate what it means to play in Toronto, but not to the extent I do now.”
Artturi Lehkonen will be out at least four weeks with a broken finger suffered in Colorado’s 8-4 victory over Montreal on Monday, adding to the club’s season-long injury misery.
The winger was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday in Colorado.
“One of our identity guys,” Bednar said. “One of the hardest-working guys on the ice in every single game.”
Avalanche: At Ottawa on Thursday in the third game of a four-game trip.
Maple Leafs: Host Carolina on Friday in the finale of a four-game homestand.