Elvis Merzlikins was denied a ninth straight win and third shutout in a row when the Columbus Blue Jackets lost to the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 at Nationwide Arena on Saturday.
Nazem Kadri and Nathan MacKinnon scored in the final 8:15 of the third period for the Avalanche (31-16-6), who have won three straight games and six of seven. They lead the Dallas Stars by one point for second place in the Central Division. Philipp Grubauer made 31 saves.
"It was a character win and one of the best of the season," Kadri said. "It's not easy to play against a team that plays defensively, has a hot goaltender, doesn't give you much offensively. We stuck with it and won the game the last 10 minutes."
[WATCH: All Avalanche vs. Blue Jackets highlights]
Merzlikins made 20 saves for the Blue Jackets (30-17-9), who had won three in a row and were 9-0-1 in their previous 10. It was their third regulation loss in 27 games since Dec. 9 (19-3-5). They lead the New York Islanders by one point for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
MacKinnon put Colorado ahead 2-1 at 15:26, scoring on a one-timer from above the left face-off circle off a cross-ice pass by Gabriel Landeskog.
Video: COL@CBJ: MacKinnon blasts one-timer past Merzlikins
"He's had a few of those one-timers in his career," Landeskog said. "I put it on a tee for him."
Merzlikins was upset that he didn't make the save.
"You saw the goal," Merzlikins said. "That's one shot from the blue line, no screen. I don't care [if] he has a good shot. I have to take that one. There's nothing more to say about that."
Kadri ended Merzlikins' shutout by tying it 1-1 at 11:45. He also ended Merzlikins' streak of 174:39 without allowing a goal, the third longest in Blue Jackets history. After a Columbus turnover in its own zone, Kadri picked up a loose puck and scored from the left circle.
Seth Jones gave Columbus a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal from the point at 9:30 of the second period.
Video: COL@CBJ: Jones wrists home power-play goal
The Avalanche hit either the crossbar or post four times in the first two periods. Colorado defenseman Cale Makar hit the post with 3:13 left in the second and again with 14 seconds left in the period and the Avalanche on the power play.
"It was a little but frustrating, but we stuck with our game plan," Landeskog said.
The Blue Jackets were unable to increase their lead.
"I don't think we had enough [offense], to be honest," Jones said. "We had little stretches, little spurts, but for the most part we played a lot of defense tonight.
"We did a decent job of it, defending them, but they had the puck a little bit more than we did. But when we did hold on to the puck, you saw what happened. We got a lot of bodies to the net, a lot of chances right around their crease area but couldn't get one in."
They said it
"What a game. They play really defensive, and I think it was a little frustrating for us. We stuck to the system. It was a great team effort. Huge points." -- Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer
"The first two periods we had to defend, but we defended well. We were the fresher team in the third period. We play our best period of the game, third period. We can't score, they score two. We had 10 or 11 chances to go up 2-0 in the third period. They had two chances and they score two goals." -- Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella
Need to know
The Avalanche won for the first time this season when trailing after two periods (1-11-1). "We're used to getting up and going and creating a lot of chances," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "They were hard to come by tonight. I'm proud of the guys for sticking with it and finding a way in the third period to get the job done." … Steve Mason holds the Blue Jackets record of 199:28 without allowing a goal, set in the 2008-09 season. Sergei Bobrovsky is second at 182:50 in 2016-17. … Columbus had a six-game home winning streak end.
Avalanche: At the Minnesota Wild on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV)
Blue Jackets: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV)
Video: Avalanche rally to defeat Blue Jackets