DENVER — It wasn’t necessarily a must-win but the Avalanche’s three-game winless stretch needed to end on Tuesday. Surely a matchup against the lowly San Jose Sharks — who played the previous night, flew into Denver late, and are the only team in the NHL yet to win 20 games — would be an easy two points for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Colorado scored three goals in each of the first two periods and dominated every aspect of the game, defeating the Sharks 6-0. The shots were 43-13 in the Avalanche’s favor and San Jose seemingly had no chance from the opening draw — as it should be.

Cale Makar and Valeri Nichushkin led the way offensively, recording a goal and three assists, each. Nathan MacKinnon (goal, assist), Artturi Lehkonen (goal, assist) and Devon Toews (two assists) also had multiple points for the Avs, who pulled within three points of Minnesota for second in Central Division with two games in hand. The Wild lost in the shootout to the Calgary Flames earlier in the evening.

“Sometimes you could have like 20 shots and score one goal,” Nichushkin said following his first four-point night since 2013. “And like today I think we get more lucky. Guys did a good shots too.”

The other Avalanche goals came from Denis Malgin and Mikko Rantanen. For Malgin, it was his fifth goal in 11 games and the second time in this stretch that he’s found the back of the net in consecutive games. Malgin was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in December and along with the additions of Matt Nieto and Lars Eller, has helped shore up the bottom six.

Malgin had two goals in his first 35 games this year before this stretch.

“We saw a large stretch where I thought he was playing good hockey (with Toronto) and he’s a confident player. Obviously skilled and can skate and make plays,” Bednar said. “And then he started with us and the puck wasn’t going in for him either. So now he’s gotten a little confidence shoot in the pocket. I don’t think a lot has changed in his game. But you continue to do the right things over time, you’re gonna get rewarded for it.”

Rantanen’s tally was his 42nd of the season — which ties Buffalo’s Tage Thompson for the third most in the NHL’s goal-scoring race. Rantanen is eight goals away from becoming the third Avalanche player to reach 50 goals in a single season (Joe Sakic, 1996, 2001) and Milan Hejduk (2003).

“I was happy for him,” Bednar said of Rantanen, who had two frustrating games in a row before finding the back of the net against the Sharks. “I could tell that there’s been some frustration in his game and obviously took a couple of penalties here recently but to kind of bite his tongue and just keep playing tonight. I thought he did a nice job.”

Alexandar Georgiev go the nod in goal and had one of his quietest nights of the season. Georgiev needed just XX saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season. He pulled into a four-way tie for the third most wins in the NHL (27) following the victory. Georgiev trails Boston’s Linus Ullmark (32) and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (29).

“You just have to stay with it,” Georgiev said. “Whatever action you got in your zone, you try to play smart and be in the game. And the guys helped me out so much. There weren’t too many shots but at the same time, they didn’t let a dangerous chance come up after sitting there without any action.”

Injury updates

Bednar provided a laundry list of injury updates following Tuesday’s morning skate:

  • Captain Gabriel Landeskog continues to skate but is progressing slowly. The team is hopeful he’ll play this season.
  • Center Darren Helm has ramped up his skating but like Landeskog has no timeline.
  • Bednar also said defenseman Erik Johnson’s initial timeline following an injury on Feb. 11 was 8-10 weeks. He is nearly at the four-week mark and is progressing quicker than the team expected.
  • Goalie Pavel Francouz has not taken the ice yet. Bednar said he expected to have him back by now and is hopeful he’ll return this season.
  • Defenseman Josh Manson is progressing well and Bednar expects him to play by the end of the month.