MacKinnon’s hat trick leads Avs to 53rd win, 9-3 over Kings
DENVER (AP) — Nathan MacKinnon had three goals and two assists, Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored twice in a dominant first period and the Colorado Avalanche set a franchise record with their 53rd win by routing the Los Angeles Kings 9-3 on Wednesday night.
Valeri Nichushkin added two goals, Cale Makar had a goal and three assists, Andre Burakovsky also scored and Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves for the Avalanche, who led 4-0 before the game was 11 minutes old.
Colorado won its seventh straight and improved to 53-14-6, besting the 2013-14 and 2000-01 teams for most victories. The Avalanche also moved two points ahead of Florida for the best record in the NHL and are a franchise-best 29-4-3 at home.
“The crowd was chanting before the anthem even started,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “You can feel that when you go on the bench as a coach, as a player, that they’re into it and they were going to be energized. And we wanted to make sure we came out and played a really good game after having a couple of off games in Winnipeg and Edmonton.
“I think our guys feel that and that’s why our record is so good at home.”
Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo and Phillip Danault scored for the Kings, who have dropped four of five. Jonathan Quick allowed three goals on 10 shots before he was pulled while starting on consecutive nights for the first time in over four years. Cal Petersen allowed six more goals on 25 shots.
LA remained in a playoff spot in third place in the Pacific Division, but sits only three points ahead of Vegas, which has two games in hand.
“Definitely not the performance you want tonight, especially at this time of year,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. “But we’ve got to look at this one and correct stuff and make sure this is not going to repeat, because it is crunch time for our team.”
The schedule did the Kings no favors. They won in Chicago 5-2 on Tuesday night and got into Denver early Wednesday to play at altitude while the Avalanche had been off since Saturday.
And Colorado opened with relentless pressure and crisp passing that overwhelmed weary LA. Aube-Kubel scored 2:54 in and Nichushkin tallied 39 seconds later. MacKinnon scored on the power play and Aube-Kubel scored 41 seconds after that to make it 4-0 with 9:04 left in the first period.
“We can put earrings on a pig if we want, but it’s not going to make it any better,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said in a 55-second postgame media session. “That was awful and we move on. We get an opportunity to play more games, so good for us and we have to be better.”
Kempe scored his 33rd goal early in the second and and Iafallo made it 4-2 with a slap shot just inside the blue line at 10:40 of the second. But the Avs steadied things when MacKinnon fed Burakovsky in the high slot at 13:05.
MacKinnon scored on a breakaway on a stretch pass from Makar early in the third period and picked up his third career hat trick with 10:08 left to make it 9-2.
Fans chanted “We want 10!” over the final minutes, but had to settle for a Colorado season-high nine goals.
“I didn’t want to score,” Aube-Kubel said with a smile. “There were no hats left.”
Added MacKinnon: “Nine’s enough, I think.”
NOTES: Avs rookie Bowen Byram assisted on the first two goals in his fourth game back after being on personal leave for nearly three months with concussion issues. ... Makar’s goal was the 60th for Colorado defensemen, the most in the NHL since Washington (62) in 1993-94. ... Avs coach Jared Bednar hopes captain Gabriel Landeskog (knee surgery) will return for a game or two before the playoffs. ... Quick started back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 18-19, 2018. He last played on consecutive nights Feb. 9-10 that same season. ... Nichushkin became the seventh Colorado player with 20 goals. ... The Avs signed undrafted college free agents Ben Meyers (Minnesota) and Wyatt Aamodt (Minnesota State).
Kings: Host Columbus on Saturday night in the first of five straight games against teams out of playoff contention.
Avalanche: Home on Thursday night vs. New Jersey, whose 24 regulation road losses are the most in the NHL. The Avs are 7-1-1 in the second game of back-to-backs.
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