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MacKinnon, Avs beat Sharks 3-0 in Game 4 to even series

DENVER, COLORADO - MAY 02: Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche advances the puck against Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks in the second period during Game Four of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on May 2, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

DENVER — Nathan MacKinnon kept up his scoring spree with a second-period goal, Philipp Grubauer stopped 32 shots for his first career playoff shutout and the Colorado Avalanche beat the San Jose Sharks 3-0 Thursday night to tie the Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.

MacKinnon has at least a point in eight straight games. It’s the longest streak by an Avalanche player in the postseason since Peter Forsberg had a point in eight straight in 2002.

Colin Wilson gave Colorado a two-goal cushion with a power-play goal early in the third period. Wilson’s score was set up by a no-look, between-the-legs pass from Mikko Rantanen, who registered two assists. Erik Johnson added an empty-netter with 1:09 remaining.

Game 5 is Saturday in San Jose.

The chants of “Gruuuu” by the crowd only grew louder with every save Grubauer made. He turned back nine shots in the final period.

In an attempt to bottle up the speedy MacKinnon, the Sharks kept rolling out their top defensive pair of Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. MacKinnon rarely had a moment when he wasn’t shadowed.

Still, he found ways to shake free, including in the second period when the puck bounced off the body of Martin Jones and into the air. MacKinnon was on the spot, taking one whack at it and then another to send it past Jones. It was his sixth goal in this postseason. He also has 13 points.

One of Grubauer’s top stops was near the end of the second period with Gustav Nyquist on the breakaway. Grubauer went into a full-out stretch in order to thwart Nyquist with his right pad.

Grubauer and the Avs defense found a way to corral Logan Couture, the leading goal scorer in the postseason who was coming off a hat trick in Game 3.

This may be an encouraging development for the Sharks: Captain Joe Pavelski returned to skating. He was on the ice in San Jose on Wednesday, with coach Peter DeBoer hearing “positive things” from the session.

Pavelski was hurt in Game 7 of the Vegas series when his helmet slammed to the ice. He’s yet to play in this series.

And while he’s has been on the minds of his teammates, DeBoer didn’t buy into the notion that Pavelski could be a rallying force for his team.

“This isn’t a ‘Rudy’ story,” DeBoer said.

NOTES: Sharks F Joonas Donskoi (undisclosed injury) hasn’t played in the Colorado series. … Avs F Matt Calvert returned after missing Game 3 with an upper-body injury. … There was a moment of silence for the late Red Kelly, the defenseman-turned-center whose Hall of Fame career included eight Stanley Cups while playing for Detroit and Toronto. He died Thursday at 91. … Rookie defenseman Cale Makar recorded his fourth assist of the postseason.

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Game 5 is Saturday in San Jose.

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