Nathan MacKinnon showcased his world-class speed late in the second period Friday and capped an impressive two-week homestand with a one-on-one score against New York goaltender Kevin Poulin for Colorado’s only score.
The Islanders’ Thomas Hickey lost the puck on his way into the Avs zone with just under two minutes to play in the second, and Colorado’s Andre Benoit picked it up and threw it back to MacKinnon, just in front of the blue line.
Hickey and defenseman Matt Donovan had an angle and gave chase, but they had no chance. Not with MacKinnon’s speed on open ice. The Avs rookie was past both by the time he left the neutral zone and only had Poulin between him and his NHL rookie-leading 15th goal of the season.
MacKinnon slightly pushed the puck left and then came back right about five feet in front of the crease. He went low to the glove side. The rubber hit the net. His arms went in the air.
Pepsi Center erupted.
“I think their [defense] was gapped up,” MacKinnon said. "It really helped me that [Donovan] started a little bit flat-footed. Thankfully I got around him and ended up scoring, but great pass from Benny (Benoit) to breakout. I guess the [defense] was a little flat-footed and that really helped me.”
MacKinnon has been an exciting addition to the Avs this season, but the typical first-year ups and downs have kept him just below the national radar.
The Avalanche’s next big star might have been born over the past two weeks, though.
His tally Friday was his seventh in Colorado’s past seven games, and it padded his lead in the NHL rookie-scoring race.
MacKinnon leads all NHL rookies in scoring with 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) and is tied for the NHL rookie lead in goals. He also leads all rookies in power-play goals (seven) and shots (127), is second game-winning goals (four) and third in assists.
His seven PPGs this season are the most by an Avalanche rookie since Matt Duchene had 10 in 2009-10.
“He’s been outstanding,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Friday morning. “He’s a powerful skater; he has great hands. He got a puck on the ankle [vs. Calgary, Monday] and didn’t think twice about playing the last game [vs. Ottawa]. A lot of guys could have missed that game easily.
“We’re very proud of him. [Wednesday] he played really well with Matt Duchene. They both really play well together, and they had a lot of chances. We’re very happy with him.”
STOLLERY RECALLED; GUENIN TO IR
Defenseman Karl Stollery was recalled following the game from AHL-affiliate Lake Erie and will join the Avalanche in Minnesota for Saturday’s game. He’ll take the roster spot of defenseman Nate Guenin, who was placed on Injured Reserve, retroactive to Jan. 4.
Guenin was hit in the ankle by a puck in Colorado’s game against San Jose and has been rehabbing the injury.
Defenseman Tyson Barrie was injured Friday against the Islanders but finished the game.
“We’ll see what [Avalanche head athletic trainer] Matt [Sokolowski] has to say,” Roy said. “[Barrie] finished the game, and I guess he’ll be day-to-day, a bit like [Ryan] O’Reilly. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow—if he can play or not. Just as a precaution we’re going to call up Stollery from Cleveland.”
Stollery signed with the Avalanche franchise as a free agent May 1, 2013 and has 11 points (five goals, six assists) and a plus-five rating in 29 games this season for the Monsters.
- Jamie McGinn assisted on MacKinnon’s score, giving him 100 career points. He’s the 12th player on the Avs roster to have reached the century mark.
- Ryan O’Reilly (shoulder), Guenin and Ryan Wilson were Colorado’s scratches Friday vs. the Isles. Wilson played his first game for Lake Erie (conditioning assignment), while O’Reilly (shoulder) and Guenin (ankle) continue to work back from injuries.
O’Reilly participated in some on-ice drills during Colorado’s morning skate Friday and will be evaluated tomorrow in Minnesota. He could play against the Wild, Roy said.
“The objective was seeing how he reacts [Saturday] morning after doing some drills with contact,” he said.
- The Avalanche fell to 3-1-1 in the first game of back-to-backs this season and is 6-2-1 overall in back-to-backs this season. Friday’s game and Saturday’s game in St. Paul is the Avalanche’s fifth of 10 back-to-backs this season.
- Colorado dropped to 11-3-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season and 6-2-1 against them at home. Colorado is 24-7-2 against Eastern Conference opponents since the start of the 2011-12 season, 44-17-8 since 2009-10 and 72-37-8 since 2005-06.
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