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Postgame Wrap-Up: Streak Extended, Series Tied

Nathan MacKinnon scored the game-winner in Game 5 to stretch point streak to eight games

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Nathan MacKinnon extended his point streak to eight games and the Colorado Avalanche evened its second-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks at 2-2.

MacKinnon scored midway through the second period to open the scoring, and the marker held as the game-winning goal as Colorado won Game 4 by a 3-0 score on Thursday night at Pepsi Center.

"We just wanted to stick with it," MacKinnon said. "You never know when you're going to get [the goal], we were prepared for a 0-0 game the whole way. It just felt like a really tight game out there tonight. We had some looks, but not a ton. That's OK though, it's playoff hockey, [be] ready to win every game 1-0 and we'll take that."

MacKinnon's eight consecutive games with a point is the longest by a Colorado player since Peter Forsberg's eight-game stretch in 2002 and is tied for the third longest since the team moved to Colorado for the 1995-96 season. Only Joe Sakic's 10-game run (April 16-May 8, 1996) and Claude Lemieux's nine-game stretch (April 24-May 17, 1997) are longer.

The 23-year-old's point streak is the longest of the 2019 NHL postseason, as he's registered at least a point in every contest following the Avalanche's 4-0 loss in Game 1 of its first-round series against the Calgary Flames.

Video: MacKinnon after the Game 4 win vs. the Sharks

He is tied with teammate Mikko Rantanen for the league lead in scoring with 13 points apiece. MacKinnon's six goals during the postseason are the most by an Avalanche player since Joe Sakic tallied seven times in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The last time a Colorado skater had 13 or more points in one playoff year was in 2002 when Forsberg (27), Joe Sakic (19), Alex Tanguay (13) and Greg deVries (13) all accomplished the feat. The Avs advanced to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals that year.

"If he's not the best player in the world right now, I don't know who is," said defenseman Erik Johnson of MacKinnon. "Thank God he is on our team because he would make a lot of us look silly, that's for sure. What a player, he is clearly on a different level right now and is feeling it."

MacKinnon, who also had a game-high seven shots on Thursday, has scored his fair share of highlight-worthy tallies during the playoffs, but his one in Game 4 had some grittiness to it. He whacked away at a couple rebounds in front of Sharks goaltender Martin Jones and finally made contact while the puck was in mid-air to break a 0-0 stalemate.

Video: SJS@COL, Gm4: MacKinnon bats in opening goal

It proved to be MacKinnon's league-leading third game-winner of the postseason, the most by an Avs player since Peter Forsberg (four) and Chris Drury (three) in 2002.

"You're looking at the goals guys are scoring in this series, guys are shooting, there's scrums, traffic. Both of ours tonight were the exact same way," head coach Jared Bednar said of the team's net-front presence. "We had one power play, one 5-on-5, so the fact that we were willing to go in those hard areas, stick around and put our nose in it is good for us."

MacKinnon now has 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 22 career playoff games. He has had at least a goal or an assist in all but seven of those contests. His 1.32 points-per-game average is the fifth highest in Stanley Cup Playoffs history among skaters with at least 20 points.

"Big players step up in big games," Rantanen said. "It was probably the biggest game of the year for us, we needed to win this game, and he was great the whole game."

The best-of-seven series now shifts back to San Jose for Game 5 on Saturday. The Avs won 4-3 in their previous outing at SAP Center last Sunday.

Since moving to Denver, the Avalanche is 8-5 in series when splitting the first four games.

"It was almost do or die tonight, 3-1 is a tough deficit. It's not impossible, it's tough," MacKinnon said. "Now it's 2-2, it's back to even. We're in a good spot. We need two out of three to win the series."

 

GRUBI GROOVIN': Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer stopped all 32 shots he faced to post his first career playoff shutout.

"All we needed was to win," he said afterward. "The longer we can keep the zero up there, the better it is, the better the chance we have to win."

He is the first German-born goaltender in NHL history to register a clean slate in the postseason and the second German national to do so, joining Olie Kolzig (six).

Grubauer, who had three shutouts during the regular season, is the first Colorado netminder to stop every puck he faced in a playoff game since on April 18, 2010 when Craig Anderson made 51 saves in Game 3 of the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals against San Jose (1-0 OT win).

He is the fifth goaltender in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history to record a shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, joining Anderson, Patrick Roy, David Aebischer and Dan Bouchard.

Video: SJS@COL, Gm4: Grubauer stretches to deny Nyquist

 

FRESH CALE: Cale Makar has only played seven NHL games, but he's left his mark on the scoresheet in nearly all of them.

The rookie defenseman recorded his fifth point of the postseason by registering an assist on MacKinnon's marker in the second period. He has assists in back-to-back games and a goal and four assists during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's amazing how comfortable he is in his first seven games of his career and being in the playoffs," MacKinnon said. "He's going to be a special player."

One day after signing his entry-level contract and two days after playing in the NCAA national championship game with the University of Massachusetts, Makar made his NHL debut on April 15 in Game 3 of the Round 1 series against the Calgary Flames. The Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey's top player scored a goal in his first game and has played a key role on Colorado's defense ever since.

Makar is averaging 17:07 of ice time per game, which ranks ninth among all Avs skaters. He's playing 1:31 of power-play time per outing while co-quarterbacking the team's second man-advantage unit with fellow 20-year-old D-man Samuel Girard.

 

TOP LINE BACK TOGETHER: Head coach Jared Bednar reunited his dominant top line for Game 4.

Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen had played together occasionally through the first eight games of the playoffs, but the trio had yet to start or play together for most of the 5-on-5 action. Until Thursday.

Colorado's top line during the regular season took the opening faceoff against the Sharks and combined for a goal and three assists in the contest.

The three players spent most of the year together on the same unit but finished the regular season and began the playoffs on different lines. Landeskog and MacKinnon formed a combination with Alexander Kerfoot, while Rantanen had played with Carl Soderberg and Colin Wilson.

 

CALVERT'S RETURN: After a one-game absence due to an upper-body injury, forward Matt Calvert returned to the Avalanche's lineup for Game 4.

Calvert, who missed his first game of the season on Tuesday night, was injured late in the third period in Game 2 after taking an open-ice hit from Brent Burns. A split second before receiving the check, Calvert was able to pass the puck to Nathan MacKinnon, who went on to score the eventual game-winning goal into an empty net.

Calvert had a career regulaar season for the Avs, posting personal bests with 15 assists (tied) and 26 points. He also played all 82 games for the first time in his NHL tenure.

The Brandon, Manitoba, native began the contest on a line with Carl Soderberg and Matt Nieto; it was a trio that had played together for much of the season. Calvert finished with an assist, two shots and one block in 15:34 of ice time.

His four points in the playoffs matches his career high for a single postseason (2014 and 2018 with Columbus), and four assists are also a postseason career high.

 

MAY I HAVE MORE HOCKEY: It's been a while since the Avalanche has played hockey in May, with Thursday's game on the second day of the month marking the club's latest contest of a campaign since 2006. The Avs played a four-game series against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Western Conference Semifinals from May 5-11, 2006.

The last game the Avalanche played in the fifth month of the calendar year was May 1, 2008 when it played Game 4 of the conference semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings. That was the last time Colorado made it to the second round of the postseason.

The Avalanche is in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row, the first time the franchise has made consecutive trips to the postseason since an 11-season run from 1995 to 2006.

 

MORE POSTGAME NOTES: The Avalanche finished 2-for-2 on the penalty kill and has gone 10-for-11 (90.1 percent) on the PK through the first four games of the series.

Mikko Rantanen tallied two assists for his fifth multi-point game of the playoffs, the most such outings of any player in the league.

Matt Nieto now has seven points (four goals, three assist) in the playoffs, ranking third on the team.

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