Nathan MacKinnon returned from a one-game injury scare but it was linemates Mikko Rantanen and Valeri Nichushkin that were the difference in the third period.
The Avalanche had three third-period goals on Thursday, including the game-winner from Rantanen, to defeat the San Jose Sharks 4-2 at Ball Arena.
Rantanen scored a power-play goal with 7:43 remaining. Earlier in the third, Nichushkin intercepted a Sharks pass on an aggressive forecheck to set up Darren Helm for his sixth of the season. Colorado struggled to put the puck past goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen for most of the game before the goal from Helm.
The Avs peppered Kahkonen for 46 shots including 18 in the final frame.
“The third period was something I’ve never experienced before,” said Avs goalie Pavel Francouz, who made 24 saves to earn his fourth consecutive victory. “We just played in their zone all the time and they barely got some shots.”
Andre Burakovsky scored the last goal to put the Avs ahead 4-2 and Alex Newhook opened the scoring early in the second period. Newhook’s tally was challenged by the Sharks for goaltending interference but was determined to be a good goal.
Despite needing a late charge to pull ahead, Colorado held the Sharks to just 26 shots, most of which were not high-dangered opportunities.
“Third period we got ramped up offensively for sure,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “But defensively the whole night I thought we were good.”
MacKinnon returned after missing Tuesday’s matchup in Calgary with an upper-body injury. In the previous game against Minnesota, MacKinnon dropped the gloves with Matt Dumba and was seen icing his hand in the penalty box on the ensuing penalty.
The suspected finger injury resulted in the superstar being sent back to Denver for further evaluation. MacKinnon was later seen skating at Family Sports on Wednesday before returning to the lineup just one night later.
The potentially disastrous injury ended up being nothing more than a one-game scare.
“He’s one of the most important parts of the team,” Helm said of MacKinnon. “You see him go down, you’re concerned. Luckily, it wasn’t as serious as we all thought it was but definitely not a guy that you want to see go down but he’s a tough guy and he’ll be playing when he can.”
Burakovsky’s tally was his first goal in 11 games and just his fifth in 34. Burakovsky also endured a 17-game goal-less drought earlier in 2022.
Kadri assisted on both Rantanen and Burakovsky’s goals in the third. Before Rantanen’s tally, Kadri was injured after taking a cross check in the corner and needed to spend time in the locker room to be evaluated by the medical staff. He later returned and earned both of his assists afterward.
The Avs were unhappy with the missed call against Kadri.
“Naz has done a really good job of trying to change the reputation he had as a young player,” Bednar said.