DENVER — For more than half of the game, Avalanche superstar Mikko Rantanen was outshooting the San Jose Sharks. The NHL’s last-place team entered Sunday’s matchup at Ball Arena riding a seven-game losing streak. And the Avs added to it, thanks to a 3-1 victory. But it wasn’t as easy as it appeared.

The teams entered the third period knotted up at 1-1 despite Colorado dominating the game for nearly all 60 minutes. Rantanen had seven shots on goal, which was just four fewer than the Sharks.

“If you want to win. You have to stick with it. And [the players] all know that.”

The Avs threw everything they could at the Sharks but needed nearly the entire third period to finally score the go-ahead goal. Miles Wood entered the zone and drew a penalty. On the delay call — a 6-on-5 attack with the goalie pulled — defenseman Jack Johnson found Valeri Nichushkin for the one-timer on the Avs’ 11th shot of the period.

“Wood, he did a good job,” Nichushkin said, after scoring his third game-winning goal of the season. “We had like three good chance right away in the zone but then Jack found me.”

The Sharks had just five shots at the midway mark, and nine through two periods but Colorado had just one goal to show for it to that point. On their first power play in the opening period, the Avs got the scoring started thanks to Rantanen’s 19th of the season. He received a pass from Nathan MacKinnon, who snuck the puck through both defensemen for a one-timer from in close. Rantanen’s tally was also his 50th of the calendar year, joining MacKinnon (53) as two of four players to reach the mark in 2023.

MacKinnon finished with two assists, which upped his point production to 135 points in 2023 — the most in the NHL. He also had 29 points in the month of December, a new franchise record for points in any single month.

Before beating goalie Kaapo Kahkonen again, Colorado was unsuccessful on both a lengthy 5-on-3 and 4-on-3. The Sharks scored the game-tying goal on a power play of their own late in the second period. It took just seven seconds on their second opportunity to beat Georgiev. Tomas Hertl’s 13th of the season at 16:53 of the second period was San Jose’s eighth shot of the game. They had just three more the rest of the way.

Georgiev made 10 saves as Colorado dominated in shots, 33-11.


Colorado welcomed Samuel Girard back into the lineup following a nearly six-week absence. Girard left the team for personal reasons in November before entering the NHL’s player’s assistance program. Girard was paired with Johnson on the team’s third unit and had two shots and a +1 in 16:18.