MacKinnon Capitals

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jess Rapfogel)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nathan Mackinnon makes the ridiculous appear routine.

Case in point: His highlight reel goal in Saturday night’s Avalanche victory, 4-0, at the Capitals.

It happened late in the second period at the end of a Colorado shift, in which MacKinnon remained on the ice with second-line forwards Evan Rodrigues and Alex Newhook. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said MacKinnon still “looked like he was fresh.”

Smart hockey laid the foundation for MacKinnon’s heroics.

“I thought all the guys on the ice made really good puck decisions,” Bednar continued. “We weren’t trying to pass it through people. We were hitting the open man and using our feet to skate. … We finally found MacKinnon.”

Defenseman Josh Manson delivered the setup pass to MacKinnon at the point, with former Avalanche teammate Nicolas Aube-Kubel defending. Poor guy.

MacKinnon dangled the puck in front of him with a sequence of blistering forehand and backhand puck movement — freezing Aube-Kubel in his skates. It created necessary space for MacKinnon to thread in between defenders and flip the puck over Washington goalie Darcy Kuemper’s left shoulder into the net. The Avalanche star broke it down in the postgame visitor’s locker room at Capital One Arena.

“I just saw that I had some time, and I had some ice to work with,” MacKinnon said. “So, I wanted to attack and make that player bite one way or the other. I managed to do that.”

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MacKinnon has five goals on the season entering Monday night’s road tilt at the Dallas Stars. None were better than his most recent shake-and-bake to the net.

“He walked it in and made a great shot,” Bednar said.

Lehkonen streaking

Avalanche top-line winger Artturi Lehkonen carries a six-game points streak (four goals and three assists) into the Dallas game. Lehkonen has been among the team’s most consistent players in the face of mounting Colorado injuries. The Avs are not surprised by his production.

“I’m not seeing any changes in his game,” Bednar said. “We’ve talked about his work ethic and his competitiveness. He’s going to get chances.”

PK turnaround

Colorado started the season with a struggling penalty kill that went 11-for-20 (55%) to rank among the bottom five teams in the NHL. But the Avs steadily improved with an 86% kill rate (31-for-36) in games played since their slow PK start.

“They’re playing quick, making the early reads, doing a really good job off the rush coverage to try to keep them out of our zone,” Bednar said. “In zone, we’re getting to loose pucks quickly and trying to keep them on the walls a little bit. The early reads and the pressure have been much better.”

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