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MacKinnon, Avalanche rally for comeback overtime win over Canucks

Colorado Avalanche Celebrate Colorado Avalanche Celebrate - Getty Images

VANCOUVER — With the NHL playoffs looming, the Vancouver Canucks are finding they still have lessons to learn.

On the chalkboard Wednesday night was the importance of closing out a game.

After taking a 3-0 lead over the visiting Avalanche, the Canucks (42-17-8) faltered and watched Colorado rally for a 4-3 overtime victory.

“I think we lift our foot off the gas," said Vancouver defenceman Nikita Zadorov.

"The teams like that, the players, their calibre — you know, Edmonton, Toronto, Colorado — when you get a 3-0 lead, you've got to learn how to play this lead and just don't feed the animal. Just step on their throat and then shut it down.”

Valeri Nichushkin scored 30 seconds into overtime for the Avs (42-20-5). Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon each had a goal and an assist in regulation, Ross Colton found the back of the net and Cale Makar notched a pair of helpers.

Alexandar Georgiev made 18 saves for Colorado, who were coming off a 6-2 win over the Flames in Calgary on Tuesday.

“Best win of the year for sure. We're really happy with our game," said MacKinnon, who leads the league in scoring with 115 points. "Tough start but it was just kind of a weird start, a couple breaks. But we didn't quit."

Zadorov and J.T. Miller each contributed a goal and an assist for the Canucks, and Ilya Mikheyev rounded out the scoring.

Casey DeSmith stopped 30-of-34 shots for Vancouver as he took over the starter’s net for the injured Thatcher Demko.

The result extended Colorado’s win streak to five games, though Vancouver remains atop the Western Conference standings.

Some odd bounces helped the Avs to victory, including in the extra frame, when MacKinnon's blast hit Nichushkin in the visor and bounced in for the win.

Colorado dominated the third, outshooting the home side 17-3, but Miller said it was the Canucks who were playing differently across the period.

“It was all us," he said. "We didn't win our battles, we didn't execute our passes, we're dumping it in for no reason, no forecheck. They outplayed us, they deserved to win.”

The Avs got on the scoreboard with three seconds left in the second when Casey Mittelstadt sent a puck flying off the glass and it landed at the feet of his teammate, Devon Toews. The defenceman sent a pass into traffic and Rantanen tipped it in.

The tally was "kind of a head scratcher" but it sparked Colorado, said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet.

“MacKinnon and them started to fly, and we just couldn't get anybody to grab hold of a puck, whether it's on a forecheck or a breakout, just to kind of slow things down," he said.

"We were a little hot potato and we were kind of soft on the puck, mostly in the third. Hate to say but it's a learning lesson. We need some guys to dig in on certain situations and we couldn't find anybody to grab a puck for us and hold it.”

An extended five-on-three opportunity gave the visitors a chance to claw their way back earlier in the third after Vancouver's Ian Cole joined teammate Elias Pettersson in the penalty box.

MacKinnon was quick to take advantage with his 42nd goal of the season, collecting a slick pass from Makar and blasting it in past DeSmith to cut the deficit to 3-2 at the 3:19 mark.

The marker extended MacKinnon's point streak to 14 games — the longest active streak in the league. The star centre has 10 goals and 20 assists since he was last held off the scoresheet back on Feb. 10.

Colorado was 1 for 3 with the man advantage Wednesday and Vancouver went 0 for 3.

The Avs knotted the game midway through the third but needed some help from officials to confirm the tying goal.

DeSmith dove to stop Miles Wood on a wraparound, but the puck bounced out to Colton, who shovelled a shot into the goalie's body as he lay in the net. Video review determined the goal had fully crossed the goal line.

The Canucks jumped out to a two-goal lead on their first two shots Wednesday.

Fans were still filtering into Rogers Arena when Miller opened the scoring just 24 seconds in to the game, tipping a shot in from the slot for his 33rd goal of the season.

Two minutes and 20 seconds later, the centre dished a pass to Mikheyev as he drove the net hard and the Russian winger deflected it in, boosting Vancouver's lead to 2-0.

The tally marked the first time in 35 games Mikheyev found the back of the net.

“(It's) just more confidence for me, of course," he said. "Because I had chances maybe before. But sometimes, this happens.”

Zadorov made it 3-0 early in the second when he unleashed a blast from the top of the face-off circle and beat Georgiev stick side for his fourth goal of the season.


Makar played his 300th regular-season NHL game. The 25-year-old defenceman has posted 82 goals and 237 assists since being picked fourth overall by Colorado in the 2017 draft. He took home rookie of the year honours in 2020 and helped the Avs win the Stanley Cup in 2022 — the same season the Calgary native was named defenceman of the year and playoff MVP.


The Canucks continue a nine-game homestand Saturday against the Washington Capitals. The Avalanche will be in Edmonton to take on the Oilers the same night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2024.