DENVER — Whether passing or shooting, Nathan MacKinnon’s stick work has been at the center of Colorado’s offensive surge.
MacKinnon had three assists, including one off a faceoff with a second remaining in the second period, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Wednesday night to remain nearly unbeatable at home.
Erik Johnson, Nail Yakupov and Gabriel Landeskog all scored off feeds from MacKinnon. Jonathan Bernier, starting in place of an ailing Semyon Varlamov, made 28 saves for his 15th career shutout and second against the Stars.
“I feel like as a line and as individuals we’ve all earned it,” said MacKinnon, who has 20 points in his last 10 games on six goals and 14 assists. “Lately we’re just even keel and coming out to play every night. Just trying to give our team the best chance to win.”
Colorado improved to 7-1-1 at home and 7-1-0 at the Pepsi Center, scoring at least three goals in each home game. An overtime loss Nov. 10 to the Ottawa Senators in Sweden officially counted as a home game for Colorado.
“When we bring our best we’re hard to contain,” MacKinnon added. “We want to make teams worry about us and not us worrying about them. The past month we’ve been doing that.”
Bernier preserved the shutout with several key stops, including a kick save that turned away a shot by Jamie Benn in the third period.
“I felt right off the bat we deserved that game,” Bernier said. “We outcompeted them, outskated them, and that’s what we wanted.”
Dallas, meanwhile, continued to struggle on the road. The Stars fell to 3-8-1 away from home and have just one win in seven road games against fellow Central Division teams.
“It’s disappointing,” goalie Ben Bishop said. “I don’t think any of us are very happy right now. We can’t keep coming on the road and having the same talk after every road game. We’ve got to dig within, look at ourselves in the mirror here and find a way to get wins on the road. We’re clicking at home, it’s just about finding that win on the road now.”
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock senses a certain mindset when his team plays on the road.
“There’s a different body language in our team between home and away. And that’s something we’ve got to change,” he said.
Ahead 1-0, the Avalanche tacked on another goal during a remarkable sequence near the end of the second period. MacKinnon won a faceoff with Benn and got the puck out to Yakupov, who was alone between the circles. Yakupov got off a powerful slap shot that rocketed past Bishop and into the net with a fraction of a second to spare.
“It bounced and then it kind of came to me and I just shoveled it back to him and he one-timed it,” MacKinnon said. “Those are fun because they are unexpected late in a period like that.”
Colorado added one more goal early in the third when MacKinnon picked up the puck behind the net and passed it out to Landeskog, who knocked it in as he skated across the slot.
After a scoreless first period, MacKinnon led a rush down the ice and dished the puck to Johnson, who wristed a shot from the bottom of the right circle that slid beneath Bishop’s pads at 3:02 of the second.
NOTES: MacKinnon leads the Avalanche in points (25) and assists (18). … Varlamov missed a second consecutive game because of illness. The Avalanche recalled G Andrew Hammond from Belleville of the AHL to serve as the backup goalie while Varlamov recovers. … Dallas C Martin Hanzal remains day to day with a hand injury. … Dallas G Mike McKenna was active as the backup to Bishop, with G Kari Lehtonen excused from the game due to personal reasons.
Stars: Return home to host Calgary on Friday.
Avalanche: Head to Minnesota to play the Wild on Friday.AlertMe