DENVER (AP) – Missing a handful of injured regulars, the Colorado Avalanche keep winning because two of their best players are healthy and rolling.
Cale Makar scored, Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists and the defending Stanley Cup champions got 32 saves from Alexandar Georgiev to beat the Washington Capitals 4-0 Saturday night for their second consecutive victory. They’ve won six of seven despite being without captain Gabriel Landeskog, winger Valeri Nichushkin and defensemen Samuel Girard and Bowen Byram, among others, thanks in large part to Makar and MacKinnon.
”Highly competitive guys that want to be difference-makers at all times, and I think it’s even more important when you got a significant amount of injuries,” coach Jared Bednar said. ”Your top guys have to be your top guys and sort of drive the bus, and our guys have been consistently doing that from the start of the season.”
MacKinnon made the highlight of the night deking around former Colorado teammate Nicolas Aube-Kubel with a fancy move a day after lamenting, ”We have half our team out right now, and we’re still finding ways to win.”
”We need them,” MacKinnon said. ”Our division’s good, obviously like every other year and we need these points. We want to be in a good, solid position when we get healthy.”
Makar scored on a 5-on-3 power play in the first period and MacKinnon at even strength in the second, beating Darcy Kuemper, the goaltender who backstopped Colorado to the Cup before departing in free agency to sign with Washington. Andrew Cogliano and Artturi Lehkonen also scored in the third period to make it four goals on 29 shots against Kuemper.
MacKinnon passed Mikko Rantanen for the team-scoring lead with 27 points. Makar’s fourth goal of the season – and 19th point in 16 games – came two days after he played a regular-season career-high 32:48 in a win at Carolina.
It has been more than a week since the Capitals won a game. Also hurt by injuries, they lost their fourth in a row and have dropped nine of their past 11.
”We’ve played some unbelievable hockey at times, we just have to do it for 60 minutes,” forward Marcus Johansson said. ”I feel like we’re such a good hockey team and it’s kind of gotten into our heads a little bit. And we just got to work through it, we got to find a way to work together to get through this.”
The Capitals opened the game with 12 shots to the Avalanche’s two but couldn’t beat Georgiev, Kuemper’s replacement who notched his first shutout with his new team. Georgiev was far more motivated to bounce back from allowing five goals in a loss last season with the New York Rangers in his most recent game at Washington than facing Kuemper and proving he was a capable successor.
”I wanted to get a big game here,” Georgiev said. ”So, it definitely felt good to get a win like that here.”
NOTES: Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov missed a seventh consecutive game because of injury. … Injured Washington forwards Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery) and T.J. Oshie (undisclosed) took part in the team’s morning skate but remain out indefinitely. Coach Peter Laviolette said winger Tom Wilson, who tore the ACL in his left knee during the playoffs, has been working out off the ice and skated a bit with Backstrom.
Avalanche: Wrap up their three-game trip Monday night at Dallas.
Capitals: Host Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
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