DENVER • Valeri Nichushkin kicked off a comeback and scored in overtime for the Colorado Avalanche, 3-2 winners over the Anaheim Ducks in a game without Nathan MacKinnon, which was a late surprise.
Improvement late in the second period turned things around before a game against the West Division’s last-place team got away from the Avalanche.
Nichushkin, who hadn’t scored in more than a month, broke through personally and for the team. He turned and converted a feed from Joonas Donskoi.
“He was sharp tonight. I think any time he uses his big body and his speed, he’s tough to handle,” forward Brandon Saad said.
Earlier in the game, Nazem Kadri’s impressive display of reflexes resulted in a disallowed goal. A puck caromed off the glass and right back to him at waist height. It was determined after a review that Kadri’s stick was above the crossbar.
Another midair rebound - at a more manageable height this time - gave Saad the chance to erase the 2-0 deficit. Tyson Jost sent a shot backwards that jumped up off John Gibson’s pad. Saad was the first to it at 17:23 of the second period.
Dan Renouf, appearing in his fifth NHL game, earned his first career point with an assist.
The Ducks, winless in their past eight games (0-6-2), weren’t about to let it get to nine without a fight. Philipp Grubauer’s (21 saves) foot, and several other padded surfaces, kept Colorado in it until the team’s two goal-scorers connected again.
Nichushkin took over at the blue line, muscled his way past defender Josh Mahura and centered, slipping the puck past Gibson (31 saves).
Coach Jared Bednar singled Nichushkin out as someone who “played well, no question,” but wasn’t impressed by most of the lineup.
“I give our team a lot of credit for sticking with it and finding a way and getting a little better as the game went on,” Bednar said.
“I didn’t like the game at all. It was sloppy. Too many turnovers. We looked tired.”
With 10 seconds left before the first period break, Adam Henrique scored from the slot after a series of Colorado mistakes. Just 2:22 into the second period, Jakob Silfverberg’s shot off the rush nearly knocked the water bottle out of its holder in the back of the net.
“We started off a little slow,” Saad said. “It was a good bounce-back character win that definitely gets you feeling good.”
MacKinnon left the game Wednesday after the San Jose Sharks’ Joachim Blichfeld caught him in the lower face on a hit in front of the benches. Blichfeld was suspended two games.
MacKinnon was expected to take his place on the top line after being cleared to play, but he was scratched a half hour before the game. Kiefer Sherwood entered the lineup instead.
Bednar said MacKinnon wasn’t feeling well in the afternoon and confirmed it had to do with the hit.
“I’m assuming he’ll miss a couple of games here,” Bednar said.
Cale Makar and Bo Byram remained sidelined with upper-body injuries. Gabriel Landeskog played 20:40 after welcoming a son Thursday night.