DENVER -- No. 1 vs. No. 4? That isn't how Nathan MacKinnon viewed playing against Seth Jones at Pepsi Center on Friday night, the first NHL meeting between two good friends and rivals.
MacKinnon, the first pick in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, left the arena a happier man than Jones, who was taken fourth by the Nashville Predators. MacKinnon, 18, collected an assist on PA Parenteau's first-period goal and the Avalanche completed a sweep of their two-game homestand with a 3-1 victory.
Center - COL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 3
SOG: 3 | +/-: 1
The two previously faced each other in the 2013 Memorial Cup, where MacKinnon and the Halifax Mooseheads defeated Jones and the Portland Winterhawks. MacKinnon had a hat trick and two assists in the championship game to earn the tournament’s most valuable player award.
"I don't really think about that," said MacKinnon, who has three assists in his first two NHL games. I don't think about the Memorial Cup or anything like that. It's a cool story line for sure. We're buddies. We've known each other since we were 13 or 14 years old and we kind of went up all the way through together. But we're buddies and there's not too much of a rivalry between us."
Jones turned 19 on Thursday when he made his NHL debut in the Predators' 4-2 road loss to the St. Louis Blues. He was on the ice Friday for both of Parenteau's goals -- the second one was an empty-netter -- and finished with one shot on goal, one giveaway and one takeaway in a game-high 25:46 in ice time.
"It felt a little different from the Memorial Cup," Jones said. "I didn’t really talk to [MacKinnon] before the game. Lined up with him a couple of times and we had some small talk. It was fun. I think he had an assist tonight on kind of a weird play, but he did really good and showed a lot of speed and he’s a really good player.”
Jones received as much ice time as he did because defenseman Roman Josi left with an upper-body injury on a hit by Steve Downie at 9:21 of the second period and didn't return. Predators captain Shea Weber played 23:22 but spent six minutes in the penalty box.
"I felt fine and obviously Josi didn't come back and so I had to manage my ice time and focus my shift length, so I thought I did a pretty good job," Jones said.
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 4 | +/-: 1
It was a homecoming of sorts for Jones, who was born in Texas but grew up in the Denver area. His dad, Popeye Jones, played for the NBA's Denver Nuggets.
"I’ve got a lot of friends still," he said. "It’s good to come back and remember where it all started."
MacKinnon didn't get a chance to meet with Jones before the game because the Predators arrived in Denver late after playing in St. Louis and didn't have a morning skate.
"I talked to him a little bit on the ice," said MacKinnon, who played 17:14, had two shots on goal, one giveaway, one takeaway and lost six of eight faceoffs. "He's my buddy. I just congratulated him on making the team. It's very exciting. I know we both worked real hard to get here."
As for the rivalry, MacKinnon said it has ended for him.
"I think it's over tonight, to be honest with you," he said. "It was our first [NHL] game and now I think it'll be a little less hyped up. Maybe when we go to Nashville they'll want to do some stuff on it, but here at home for the most part it's going to be toned down a little bit. It's just going to be a Nashville against Colorado thing."