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Second Round

Avalanche propelled by reunited top line in Game 2 win

Rantanen, Landeskog, MacKinnon combine for five points against Sharks to help even series

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- The Colorado Avalanche found a winning formula by reuniting their top three scorers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.

Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each had a goal and an assist, and Mikko Rantanen, who returned to the top line early in the second period, had an assist to help the Avalanche even the best-of-7 series with a 4-3 win. 

Game 3 is at Colorado on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

 

[RELATED: Avalanche hold off Sharks in Game 2 | Complete series coverage]

 

With the Avalanche trailing 1-0 after the first period, coach Jared Bednar decided to move Rantanen, who started the series on a line with Colin Wilson and Carl Soderberg, to the top line and shifted down Alexander Kerfoot.

The move produced second-period goals by Landeskog at 8:21 and Tyson Barrie (assisted by Landeskog and Rantanen) at 16:31 to put Colorado in front for good.

"The chemistry between us is that we've played together over 150 games in the last two years, so there's not much talk you have to do," Rantanen said about the in-game change in lines. "There's a lot of good players in this team and it doesn't matter if Kerfoot is with them and I'm with [Wilson]. I'm good with either, but if the coach wants us together, we have to lead the way.

Video: COL@SJS, Gm2: Landeskog tips one past Jones

"When we play together, we're trying to take over."

Since losing 4-0 to the Calgary Flames in Game 1 of the first round, MacKinnon and Rantanen have been steady producers for Colorado. MacKinnon (four goals, seven assists) and Rantanen (five goals, six assists) each has 11 points during a six-game point streak with the Avalanche 5-1 during that stretch.

"Everybody was just out there trying to do their job," said Landeskog, who has six points (two goals, four assists) in seven playoff games. "For us that job is to get the team going offensively, and some nights you have it, some nights you don't, but playoff time you got to try and find it every night and tonight I thought we got deep and were able to get rewarded for a lot of our hard work."

Colorado was excited to earn a split at SAP Center, where they were 2-15-6 in their previous 23 games dating to the 2008-09 season.

"To come home with a split, we know how important that is for a series," Landeskog said. "I'm not saying it's game over if it's 2-0 for them, but we'd definitely be in a hole. Now all of a sudden the series is shifting back to Denver and we got a split and all of a sudden it's home-ice advantage for us."

MacKinnon, who extended the Avalanche lead to 4-2 with an empty-net goal at 18:58 of the third period, was credited with the game-winning goal after Sharks defenseman Brent Burns scored on the power play with 11 seconds remaining.

"It's great, we needed this," MacKinnon said. "We just wanted a split and we got it and it's massive for us. We feel really good at home right now. We won both games at home in the first round. We feel good and are ready to go."

Video: Landeskog's two points help Avalanche claim Game 2

Not only does MacKinnon feel the Avalanche are gaining momentum, they're finding an even stronger belief. This is the first season Colorado has advanced to the second round since 2008, and it hasn't reached the Western Conference Final since 2002.

"I think after Game 2 in Calgary (3-2 overtime win), our belief grew and grew and we started dominating that series," he said. "[The Sharks], I think, are a better team, but we still have the same confidence that we can beat these guys. And I'm sure they have the same confidence that they can beat us. It's going to be a tough series."

"I mean, we're here. For us it's about making the push and not saving anything. I mean, we have nothing to save our energy for. You're playing, it's almost May and you're in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the second round. … For us, we love this position that we're in. We love being the underdogs. We believe in what we can do as a group. We've talked about that, but we're not done yet."

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