DENVER - The Colorado Avalanche needed a big night from their star to stay within reach, and Nathan MacKinnon delivered.
MacKinnon’s second goal of the night chased Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne and the Avalanche tightened the series against the top-seeded Predators with a 5-3 victory Monday. Colorado has a chance to even the first-round series Wednesday at home.
During a relentless shift from the top line early in the second period, Gabriel Landeskog couldn’t finish his chance, but MacKinnon was there to send one rocketing around the cage. The Hart Trophy hopeful has three goals, two assists through three playoff games.
Three-time Vezina Trophy finalist Rinne was pulled in favor of Juuse Saros. That was enough to satiate, if not calm, the packed-to-the-brim Pepsi Center.
“I think we’ve proven to ourselves that we can get a win,” MacKinnon said. “Hopefully it snowballs from here.”
Less than two minutes into the game, Carl Soderberg put a centering pass right on the tape of Blake Comeau. The veteran chipped it past Rinne, the third time the Avalanche had scored first in the series.
For the first time, however, they were able to build upon it.
Gabriel Bourque scored his second in two games, tipping a Patrik Nemeth shot past Rinne.
MacKinnon then put the Avalanche up by three on a partial breakaway, taking a feed from Landeskog and beating Rinne low before the first period wrapped up.
“I think (MacKinnon) thrives on the energy of the building. I think he gets up for it,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “He’s just so explosive at home.”
Predators defenseman PK Subban temporarily lost his cool, punching MacKinnon in the helmet and drawing boos every time he touched the puck the rest of the game.
“I think both teams are under each other’s skins right now. Emotions are high,” Bednar said. “We have to be smart. In my opinion, we’ve been the better team 5-on-5.”
Ryan Johansen batted in an easy power-play rebound right in front of the net to give the Predators life midway through the second period. Colton Sissons took away the Avalanche’s breathing room 7:12 into the third, but much of the final period followed a holding pattern.
The teams inflated the score in the last two minutes. Landeskog potted an empty-netter and the Predators’ Austin Watson responded 21 seconds later. Bernier made 29 saves.
“Our guys were ready to go right from the start tonight,” Bednar said. “Great energy in the room. The fans were awesome.”