Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen Help Colorado Avalanche to 4-1 Win Over Minnesota Wild in Opener
DENVER (AP) — For a brief moment, the Minnesota Wild lost track of the super speedy Nathan MacKinnon. That's all it took.
MacKinnon had a tap-in goal off a nifty pass from Mikko Rantanen to give Colorado the lead, Semyon Varlamov stopped 20 shots and the Avalanche beat the Wild 4-1 on Thursday night in the opener for both teams.
Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk didn't have much of a chance on MacKinnon's second-period goal that gave Colorado a 2-1 advantage. Rantanen skated down the left side and sent a pass through a sea of sticks to MacKinnon, who tapped it in before Dubnyk had a chance to fully turn his head.
MacKinnon picked up right where he left off from last season, when he tallied 39 goals and 58 assists on his way to finishing second in the Hart Trophy vote. He led the team in shots Thursday with eight.
Carl Soderberg scored, while Rantanen and J.T. Compher added empty-net goals for the Avalanche, who moved to 15-5-3 in home openers since moving to town from Quebec.
Varlamov returned to net after missing the playoffs last season with a knee injury he suffered late in the regular season. He made his eighth opening-night start in a burgundy-and-blue sweater, surpassing Patrick Roy for the most by an Avalanche goaltender. This also was Varlamov's 400th career NHL game.
Colorado thought it had a two-goal lead when Colin Wilson scored 1:36 into the third after knocking in a puck out of the air. The goal was reviewed and disallowed after it was determined Wilson's left glove batted the puck in.
No matter, Varlamov protected things with save after save. None bigger than stopping an Eric Staal wrist shot with his right shoulder on a 2-on-1 with just under 5 minutes remaining.
Rantanen added an empty-net goal with 1:53 remaining and Compher another in the waning seconds to seal the victory.
Colorado outshot the Wild 40-21.
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