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Recap: Nathan MacKinnon’s hat trick pushes Avalanche through sloppy game to clinch Central Division

Avalanche beat Predators 4-3 in final game of the season to clinch first seed in the Central Division

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This was quite the hockey game to behold. The range of emotions that must have taken place from hockey fans all over the league spectrum would create quite the roller coaster if you graphed it out. Despite the less-than-stellar game from the Avalanche it would be hard to write a better finish to the regular season portion of this crazy season.


Things felt pretty lackadaisical for the Colorado Avalanche the past week or so. First periods especially seemed to be a point of struggle for them as they fought tooth and nail to take the top spot in the Central Division from the clutches of the Dallas Stars. Today they decided they would rather just get it going from the jump.

Devon Toews did just that a mere 28 seconds into the contest with a pretty mundane wrister from the corner of the blue line. The shot floated through some bodies and the screen in front caused Kevin Lankinen to lose sight of the shot as it floated under his blocker and into the back of the net.

It was a good start for the Avalanche but thirty seconds does not a period make. They made it pretty clear they understood that and dominated for three minutes before Nathan MacKinnon scored his first of many highlight-worthy goals.

This was less a goal you would expect MacKinnon to score and more one that you’d think Cale Makar would. However with Makar out it was MacKinnon who danced his man at the same spot Toews had scored a goal from, walked down the board, and cut to the middle of the ice (and took a good slash for his troubles). At this point, it was just MacKinnon and Lankinen and with MacKinnon cutting horizontally Lankinen was down and out, making it an easy finish for the superstar’s first of the game.

It was smooth sailing for the Avalanche through the first five minutes of the game, and on most nights it still would be. However, this was a tough game for Alexander Georgiev and it all started with ex-Av Kiefer Sherwood’s first goal of the game. The current Predator got his sixth of the season after he skated out from the corner, pivoted at the top of the circles, and ripped a laser past Georgiev’s ear. Sherwood’s best ability has always been his shot, and credit to him this was a good one, but seeing as it was Georgiev’s first of the game he needed to stop it.

This could have given Nashville some energy and sparked a bit of a rally, but the Avalanche just continued to hum along and control play. They weren’t exactly rewarded for their hard work, but when you have a Nathan MacKinnon who can score SportsCenter-worthy goals it doesn’t really matter. If you haven’t seen this goal already then you likely haven’t spent even a second on social media because this thing was everywhere, and rightfully so.

It all began when MacKinnon picked up the puck with a gallop in the neutral zone and carried it alone toward two Predators' defensemen. Seeing as he was outnumbered he did the rational thing, which was to try and go right through them. Well, when you’re Nathan MacKinnon you don’t have to be rational, because that is exactly what he did to perfection. After dodging the check it was just him and the goalie, the poor poor goalie. MacKinnon toe dragged around him and backhanded it in to restore the Avs’ two-goal lead and drop everyone’s jaws to the floor.

The Avalanche dominated the rest of the first period but didn’t get anything to show for it. Things were looking good. And then they let their foot off the gas to start the second, and it cost them.

In another effort from the Predators’ white-hot first line, the Avalanche lead was cut to one yet again just three minutes into the second. Another nice shot that you want Alexandar Georgiev to likely have, this time from Luke Evangelista, but in the exact same spot as the Predator’s first goal.

Up until that point, the period wasn’t pretty but it was far from bad. That changed very quickly as Kurtis MacDermid tripped the aforementioned Evangelista as he cut toward the net with speed. The Avalanche did a good job killing off the first half of the penalty, but soon after Kiefer Sherwood got his second of the game on a one-timer from the bumper spot to tie it.

It was at this point and for most of the rest of the second period that there was really worry about the Avs's ability to finish the job in this game. They looked all out of sorts and were very sloppy with the puck. They gave up a few more quality chances as the second frame came to a close, but were able to keep the game tied to reset for the third.

They kind of did that. The third period was much better and more eventful for the Avalanche than the second, however, given that this was on the second night of a back-to-back the Avs were a bit winded and sloppy, so they couldn’t exactly put their all into breaking the tie.

The Avalanche created a lot of changes in the first two-thirds of the period but struggled to hit the net and make the plays they intended to. Then came Nathan MacKinnon.

As the Predators broke in on a rush Mikko Rantanen intercepted a pass up at the goal line while the Predators had four guys low. Rantanen booked it up the ice, MacKinnon joined him, and those two turned on the jets. Rantanen gave it off for MacKinnon and they were in the clear. The two skated half the ice on a pure two-on-one, but MacKinnon was only thinking shot. He ripped a shot right under Lankinen’s blocker with a minute left for the hat trick and the lead.

Nashville pulled Lankinen immediately after the ensuing faceoff but never came close to tying it as the Colorado Avalanche walked out of this chaotic game with the Central Division crown, thanks to the heroics of Nathan MacKinnon.


I’ll keep it short here because there is truly only one thing to talk about from this game and that is Nathan MacKinnon. Yes, it wasn’t the prettiest game from the Avs but given the circumstances, it’s not a big needle mover and the other two big storylines from this game deserve much more in-depth analysis, which will be up in the coming days.

But seriously what can you say about Nathan MacKinnon? Everyone said he would go to another level this year and that is exactly what he did. He turned in the best rate-scoring season in Avalanche history, pushed the top three in scoring despite only playing 70 games, and just won the Colorado Avalanche their second (technically third) straight division title. All that’s left is to see if he can keep it up in the postseason. I for one think he will.


The run to a repeat begins now. It starts off with a new face in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Seattle Kraken. Game One is Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. MT on ESPN.