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MacKinnon ends drought, Avalanche blank Islanders

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Nathan MacKinnon ended a 10-game drought with two goals Thursday to support goalie Semyon Varlamov, who made 40 saves in the Colorado Avalanche's 5-0 win against the New York Islanders at Pepsi Center.

The shutout was the 14th of Varlamov's NHL career, his 10th with the Avalanche. He is 2-0-2 and has stopped 141 of 148 shots in his past four starts.

"I had a rough start, and right now it's very important for me to get my confidence back," said Varlamov, who made 49 saves Tuesday in a 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. "It was important game for us. Really frustrating about that game two days ago. It was a tough loss, but tonight we played solid hockey, played all three periods. We scored a lot of goals too. We get our confidence back for our offense."

The Avalanche (3-4-4) have points in five consecutive games (2-0-3). They killed six New York power plays, extending their streak to 17 over four games.

MacKinnon, last season's Calder Trophy winner, scored his first goals of the season in the second period, when the Avalanche scored three times to grab a 4-0 lead. His drought ended with a power-play goal at 3:25, and he scored again at 10:14 off a pass from Jarome Iginla.

"It was strange to see it go in, my first goal since the playoffs," MacKinnon said. "It's nice. I figured it would come sooner or later, obviously a little later than I wanted, but it's all in the past now. It was a huge win at home, Varly making 40 saves and really helping our team get this win. Everybody played a solid game, the PK did a phenomenal job against one of the best in the League. We have to build on our record; it's not where we want it to be."

This was hardly the way the Islanders wanted to open their five-game trip through the rugged Western Conference.

New York (6-4-0), which was second in the NHL with 3.78 goals per game entering Thursday, has lost two games in a row and slipped into second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We'll have to move some lines, tweak some lines," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano, who gave Varlamov credit for keeping New York scoreless. "We have to score goals. This League, every night you have to score two to three to win. If you don't, you're not going to win hockey games."

Islanders goalie Chad Johnson gave up five goals on 23 shots, including three goals on 14 shots in the second period.

"It seems like we had little moments there," he said. "Again, just not good enough right now. For goaltending right now, not doing a good job. Just flat out how it is. I can't allow five goals on 20-some shots. That's all I can really say. Have to be better."

The Avalanche are making it difficult for Varlamov, who has faced 91 shots in the past two games. Colorado surrendered an average of 35.8 shots through the first 10 games.

"He is solid," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "He's played well. Tonight, they had a lot of shots from the outside and a lot of shots (10) on the power play. At times when we needed him, he was there. He made big saves. He's one of the best, if not the best, in the game right now. We have a lot of confidence in him."

The Avalanche padded their lead at 13:40 of the third period on a goal by Erik Johnson, who scored from the right point on Colorado's first shot of the period.

MacKinnon scored his first goal after Gabriel Landeskog drove to the net for a shot. Erik Johnson swept the rebound to MacKinnon to the left of the crease during a scramble in front. MacKinnon waited for Chad Johnson to go down and stack his pads before shooting the puck over him into the net.

"I had a lot of time on the first one," MacKinnon said. "I didn't expect to have that much time in front of the net."

Marc-Andre Cliche scored his first goal at 8:59 of the second period following some work around the net by Maxime Talbot and Cody McLeod. Cliche was at the left side of the net when he found an opening between the near post and Johnson's right pad.

MacKinnon drove to the net to score his second goal. Iginla was along the right-wing boards when he fended off a check by Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan and passed to MacKinnon for a chip shot.

"I didn't even yell for the puck," MacKinnon said. "He saw me, thankfully, put it on my stick, and I didn't really have to do anything. I think my game against San Jose was a lot better than tonight. It's funny how it works. I don't score for 10, and then I get two in one night. "

McLeod gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead at 2:34 of the opening period on the first shot of the game. Matt Duchene was behind the net when he passed to McLeod near the right post for his first goal of the season.

The Avalanche's fourth line of McLeod, Cliche and Talbot combined for two goals and three assists, and all three players killed penalties.

"We started off good, and that's how we have to play more often," McLeod said. "We have to beat the puck down low and take it to the net and play ugly like that. (The Islanders) have been playing good, they've been off to a good start. Our PK's been pretty solid for most of the season. I think we adjust well to teams."

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