DENVER - The Avalanche saw daylight, but it turned out to be a quick glance.
A minute after the Avs undid the damage of a slow first period, erasing a two-goal deficit, Logan Couture scored his second of the night to give the San Jose Sharks what they needed to take Game 3 in Denver.
San Jose won 4-2 and took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
Nathan MacKinnon scored a beauty late in the second period, and a hopping Matt Nieto redirected a Samuel Girard blast to tie it up, but the Avalanche’s eight-game home winning streak came to an end.
Couture added an empty-netter to finish a hat trick and seal the win.
“To me, we didn’t consistently work for the puck. In turn, our execution was poor,” coach Jared Bednar said. “We made some bonehead decisions with the puck as well.”
The Avalanche treated the home crowd to a high-flying first few minutes, but got themselves into penalty trouble. The Sharks gave them a reprieve by hitting iron multiple times.
Philipp Grubauer (27 saves) shuffled frantically side to side, eye on the puck, but Couture wound up facing a large gap. He got his defender, Cale Makar, twisted into knots and sent it in.
Colorado went into the break down 2-0 after a stretch pass was picked off at the San Jose blue line. Timo Meier smoked Erik Johnson and tucked the puck just inside the crossbar with 1:18 left in the period.
A revved-up Colorado power play got the home crowd roaring again, and even though the Avs sent several chances wide and hit the post before taking a penalty of their own, they were soon rewarded.
With the seconds ticking down on a Sharks power play, MacKinnon hopped off the bench, took a pass from Ian Cole and sniped one past Martin Jones to make it 2-1.
MacKinnon extended his point streak to seven games (5 goals, 7 assists). The last Avalanche player with a playoff point streak that long was Peter Forsberg in 2004.
Further egged on by the crowd, the Avalanche narrowed the shot gap, which was 2-to-1 in the second period. The Avs ramped up the physicality, outhitting the Sharks 41-20, including a game-high 11 from Nikita Zadorov.
But Couture, the Sharks’ “big-game player” according to coach Peter DeBoer, allowed the home crowd just 1:05 of elation.
“We did let up on that shift (after Nieto’s goal) there was no question,” Bednar said. “To me it was similar to what was going on in the first and in the second period.”
Game 4 is Thursday night in Denver.