Andre Burakovsky scored on the only shot in overtime just 41 seconds in on Monday to help the Avalanche erase multiple two-goal deficits in the third period and defeat the San Jose Sharks 5-4 at SAP Center.
Colorado (34-12-4) is two points back of Vegas for first in the West Division with a game in hand. It also leads the third-place Minnesota Wild by two points with a game in hand as the race among the top three tightens.
The Wild defeated the Golden Knights 6-5 in regulation on Monday, overcoming a late two-goal deficit of their own.
Burakovsky’s goal was his third game-winner this season. He skated into the zone and fired a shot from in between the hash marks that struck Jones’ glove and trickled into the net.
“I found some ice and I was just trying to get a shot off,” Burakovsky said. “I saw that the puck kind of ended up behind the goalie but I didn’t know it was going in. I saw that when I was level with the goal line.”
Colorado trailed 3-1 entering the third and 4-2 before clawing back to tie the game. Captain Gabe Landeskog put the Avs within a goal and center Nazem Kadri scored his first goal in 20 games with 3:39 remaining to force OT. Kadri had just three assists during his goal-scoring slump.
“Oh man, it felt good. It felt good for sure,” Kadri said of his goal. “The timing of the game, and obviously we needed a goal. The guys on the team just kept encouraging me to shoot it and finally one went in.”
The Avs scored just 1:18 into the third period to make it 3-2 but gave up a goal less than two minutes later to fall back behind by two. The tally from Valeri Nichushkin, his 10th of the season, was deflected off a shot by Burakovsky.
Burakovsky was the catalyst, firing a shot that beat goalie Martin Jones but not the post. He went in for a second chance but ended up whacking at Nichushkin’s stick, which hit the puck into the open net on the rebound.
Burakovsky has four goals and eight points in his last seven games. He replaced star winger Mikko Rantanen on the top line alongside superstar Nathan MacKinnon and Landeskog when Rantanen was out due to COVID protocol.
MacKinnon had two assists and recorded nine shots for the second consecutive game.
“Once we lost Mikko to COVID protocol and we put Burky with MacK and Landy, he had a couple of exceptional games in St. Louis,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “He had an off game in Vegas and after that game, he’s just back and skating and being aggressive. He makes those two plays tonight — huge difference-maker in our game.”
Philipp Grubauer, Colorado’s No. 1 netminder, made his second start since returning from COVID protocol. Grubauer shut out the Sharks on Friday but made just 23 saves to win his 27th game in 35 starts.
Grubauer started a career-high 36 games in 2019-20, a number he will pass if he starts just two of Colorado’s final six games. Bednar said postgame that backup goalie Devan Dubnyk tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss a minimum of two weeks, making it all the more likely Grubauer plays most of the remaining games.
“He made some big saves for us,” Bednar said of Grubauer. “The second period he had a lot of work. We just weren’t sharp with all those turnovers.”