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MacKinnon-Makar Connection Leading Avs Offense

The forward and defenseman have stepped up while the team deals with injuries

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CALGARY, Alberta--The way Cale Makar is passing the puck and Nathan MacKinnon is shooting it, there might not be a better offensive duo in the league right now. Especially among players that play different positions.

The forward and defenseman's abilities were on full display on Saturday night as MacKinnon recorded two goals and an assist, while Makar contributed a career-high four assists in the 5-4 overtime victory.

Makar had the primary assist on three of the Avs' goals on the night and both of MacKinnon's, including the game-winner just 27 seconds into overtime to give Colorado the 5-4 victory.

The winning tally was all MacKinnon, as after he took a pass from Makar in his own zone, he flew up the ice and placed a shot in a similar spot that Nazem Kadri had scored in two periods earlier.

"I saw Naz go low-blocker earlier in the game, and I figured that would be a good spot to shoot," MacKinnon said. "They got a little confused in the neutral zone so I tried to take advantage of it."

Video: COL@VAN: MacKinnon goes coast-to-coast for OT winner

MacKinnon's first marker of the night was courtesy of a great pass by Makar that was placed to the tee, allowing for a massive one-timer from the left circle to break open a 1-1 tie.

Colorado's top center has 29 points after 20 games and the rookie blueliner now has 22 points on the season, the most among all first-year players and tied for second overall by defensemen in the league. Makar is the fourth defenseman in NHL history to record 20 or more points in his first 20 career games and the first since Larry Murphy nearly 40 years ago.

"He is an amazing player, such a gifted player. I said before the season that I thought he was going to get 70. I might have to up that a little bit with the way he is playing," MacKinnon said of Makar. "Even when he is not at his best in certain games, he's still finds way to be an effective player. That's key in this league, you're not going to have your best every night, you just have to bring something and he's been great."

Video: COL@VAN: MacKinnon hammers one-timer home for PPG

The Avalanche has been hit hard by the injury bug in recent weeks with presently seven players out of the lineup. Colorado has battled through this recent stretch without some of their core players but have rebounded to sport a 4-1-0 record in its last five contests.

MacKinnon and Makar have helped ease a roster in transition in those five outings, with the forward registering five goals and six assists in that time while the D-man has scored four times and added six helpers.

"We get a great performance by Nate and a real good effort from our whole group to kind of dig in and grab two important points for us," said head coach Jared Bednar after the contest in Vancouver. "[Makar is] the other one. He knows how to make plays. He contributes all the time. He made a couple tough decisions and got caught a couple times charging forward, but makes up for that by being a part of four goals."

Their solid play has put the league on notice, and the two skaters have been honored as such. Makar was recognized as the NHL's Third Star for the week of Nov. 4-10, and MacKinnon earned Second Star honors on Monday for his performance last week.

With MacKinnon leading the rush and Makar attacking from the backend, the NHL's 30 other teams have been put on high alert. Watch out for the Avs' dynamic duo.

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