Nathan MacKinnon and Jack Johnson rejoined the Avalanche after each turned in the required negative COVID-19 tests, according to coach Jared Bednar. The reinforcements failed to lift the team, which turned in a dysfunctional 6-3 loss at the Washington Capitals.

Colorado was outplayed and outshot 19-5 in the first period Tuesday, but held a 2-2 tie past the game’s midway point thanks to Darren Helm’s first goal with Colorado. Logan O’Connor swerved along the boards with the puck until the right lane opened up. Helm pinched in and accepted the feed.

Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Kuznetsov then scored 1:54 apart and the Washington focus shifted to getting Kuznetsov his hat trick.

“I just thought they were the faster, bigger, stronger hungrier team tonight, start to finish,” Bednar said.

“Bad night. Just a bad night.”

J.T. Compher briefly energized the Avalanche with a shorthanded goal in the first period. He started by picking off a pass. With Kuznetsov grabbing at him from behind, Compher skated in and put the puck over the glove of Ilya Samsonov (24 saves).

On the first goal, John Carlson fed Kuznetsov up the middle. Kuznetsov got the drop on several Avalanche players, skating between Cale Makar and Ryan Murray and scoring on Darcy Kuemper five-hole.

The Avalanche’s three biggest stars – Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Makar – were on the ice for five goals against.

“We know we can all be better,” Rantanen said. “I don’t think there’s a lot to talk about. That’s not how we play.”

Rantanen scored a power-play, extra-attacker goal to make it 5-3 shortly before Alex Ovechkin put his fourth of the young season into the empty Colorado cage.

Kuemper made 34 saves. He’s allowed 11 goals in three starts. One of his unsuccessful reads Tuesday, however, was on a 3-on-1.

“Not happy about the last two losses but just stick with the process. I know we’ll turn it around here,” Kuemper said.

Colorado now heads to Florida for games against the Panthers and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Avalanche have lost two straight.

“I thought we got outcompeted in a lot of areas. Gave up way too much," Bednar said. “We were, I would say, cheating or gambling for offense instead of working the right way to create it and they went the other way on us.”

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