NASHVILLE, Tenn. (KDVR/AP) — Valeri Nichushkin scored the tiebreaking goal with 7:58 left, and the Colorado Avalanche became the first team to advance to the second round Monday night by finishing a sweep of the Nashville Predators 5-3 Monday night.

Andre Burakovsky had a goal and two assists, Cale Makar added a goal and an assist, and Devon Toews added a goal for Colorado. Nathan MacKinnon sealed the victory with an empty-net goal on the man advantage with 55.9 seconds remaining.

MacKinnon dominated the series for the Avalanche, raising his career playoff points total to 75.

The Avalanche finished the regular season with 119 points, the highest amount in the Western Conference, and showed the extent of the team’s depth with several players having multi-point games. But the top line remained most active with Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen leading in points overall through four games.

The Predators went into the series without starting goalie Juuse Saros, who suffered a lower-body injury prior to the playoffs. The team started backup David Rittich in Game 1 but pulled him after he allowed five goals on 13 shots and was replaced by rookie Connor Ingram, who made 30 saves to finish the 7-2 loss.

Makar scored the late overtime game-winner in Game 2 to put the Avs up 2-0 in the series, and Landeskog notched two goals and two assists in the 7-3 Game 3 win.

The three other matchups going on in the conference will go at least five games. The Dallas Stars are up 2-1 to the Calgary Flames, the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild are tied at two even and the Edmonton Oilers are tied at two wins apiece with the Los Angeles Kings.


The Avalanche also swept St. Louis in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, Vancouver in the Western quarterfinals in 2001 and the 1996 Stanley Cup Final against Florida.


Nashville captain Roman Josi and Makar were announced as finalists earlier Monday for the Norris Trophy. Josi won the Norris in 2020, and he posted the best scoring season since Phil Housley in 1992-93 with 96 points — a franchise record for the Predators.

Makar is a finalist for a second straight season. He led defensemen with 28 goals, and he became the eighth defenseman in NHL history with seven or more points through the first three games of a postseason and first since John Carlson also had seven in 2018.