Rangers Avalanche Hockey

Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, left, looks to pass the puck against the Rangers on Tuesday in Denver.

DENVER — Before the New York Rangers could pull their goaltender Tuesday for the extra attacker, Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin went in alone and scored his second of the night. Thirty-seven seconds later, Colorado had finished off the Rangers for the second time in seven days, 4-2.

Cale Makar set a new career high with his 13th goal of the season at Ball Arena. The defenseman is nearly a point-per-game player through two regular seasons and change. He has 120 (33 goals, 87 assists) through 124 games.

Meanwhile, Avalanche bruiser Kurtis MacDermid found a worthy opponent in Rangers winger Ryan Reaves. Reaves starred in a 2021 playoff incident when he was a member of the Vegas Golden Knights. Reaves forced Colorado defenseman Ryan Graves’ head to the ice and ripped out a chunk of his hair, earning a two-game suspension.

Graves is now with the New Jersey Devils, and MacDermid wasn’t a member of the Avalanche yet. Whether or not that bizarre sequence was on their minds, 6-foot-5, 233-pound MacDermid got the better of 6-foot-2, 225-pound Reaves. MacDermid took one last heavy swing as Reaves lost his balance.

“We were all pumped, yeah. Lot of excitement,” Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “Dermy’s an awesome guy and he loves violence. 

“He’s been looking for one. Not many guys will fight him, so it’s fun to watch.”

Nazem Kadri had three assists in his return to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury.

The top line consisting of MacKinnon (2 assists), Andre Burakovsky and Mikko Rantanen connected for a lightning-fast goal to make it 1-0. MacKinnon took it around the net and sent it to Rantanen, who was drifting just in front of the crease. Later in the first period, Makar’s rip through traffic came on a power play.

Nichushkin swung a rebound around the foot of New York goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (27 saves) to make it 3-1.

J.T. Compher had his extra-insurance goal disallowed in the third period due to goaltender interference. Goalie Darcy Kuemper (26 saves) had to work a little harder than he might have. Kuemper allowed one more goal before Nichushkin sealed the victory.

Defenseman Justin Barron, 20, was recalled from the Colorado Eagles (AHL) to make his first NHL start. He was the Avalanche’s 25th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

“It’s definitely a special day,” Barron said.

Barron played 9:10, all at even strength. He was plus-1 with a hit and a takeaway. A puck graze of Compher on Nichushkin’s first goal denied Barron an assist in his debut.

“I thought he played great tonight,” MacKinnon said.

“He was a big part of Val’s first goal and it’s great to have another good D-man on our team.”

Notes

One of Colorado’s top defensemen, Devon Toews, missed his first game after entering the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. Coach Jared Bednar said Toews tested positive and was symptomatic, “so he’ll be out until after Christmas.”

The NHL’s reigning third star of the week had seven assists in three games last week.

Colorado isn’t the only team currently affected. On Monday the Calgary Flames shut down until at least Thursday and Tuesday night’s game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild was postponed.

“I know there’s teams that are getting shut down and whatnot, but we’re fighting through it just like everybody else,” Bednar said. “It’s a little bit of adversity but it comes with the territory nowadays.”

Bednar said defenseman Jacob MacDonald, who was stretchered off the ice following a hit from the Florida Panthers’ Ryan Lomberg during the second period Sunday, was “around the rink this morning” and “doing good, so hopefully on the way to recovery.”

Lomberg, too, is in COVID-19 protocol.

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