DENVER (AP) — Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, Philipp Grubauer stopped 18 shots for his second shutout of the season and the playoff-chasing Colorado Avalanche beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 on Saturday.
Mikko Rantanen scored on the power play and Gabriel Bourque added a full-length, empty-net goal for the Avalanche, who were missing captain Gabriel Landeskog with the All-Star forward sidelined four-to-six weeks due to an upper-body injury. Colorado sits two points behind Minnesota for the final wild-card spot with 13 games remaining.
The Sabres dropped their fourth straight on coach Phil Housley’s 55th birthday. Carter Hutton turned back 40 shots in a game that was filled with plenty of minor skirmishes once the whistle sounded.
Rantanen’s 30th goal of the season gave Colorado a 2-0 lead midway through the third and Bourque added his first goal of the season to seal the win. Grubauer made 11 of his saves in the third period as Colorado outshot the Sabres by a 43-18 margin.
MacKinnon made it 1-0 early in the second period when he was knocked down by a check in the back by Jack Eichel near center ice, quickly got back up, skated past defenseman Rasmus Dahlin at the blue line and lined a shot over the glove of Hutton. It was MacKinnon’s 35th goal of the season.
Later in the second period, Eichel drew a penalty for an illegal hit to the head on Carl Soderberg.
That after Eichel was on the receiving end of a big check in the opening period. Eichel was skating along the boards when hard-hitting Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov hit Eichel in the shoulder area and knocked off Eichel’s helmet. Buffalo players raced to the defense of their young center. Several players were sent to the penalty box for roughing, including Zadorov, who was drafted by Buffalo in 2013 before being dealt to Colorado two years later.
On the power play, Buffalo had a golden opportunity at the game’s first goal when Jason Pominville tried to put a rebound into an open net. At the last instant, Soderberg lifted his stick to disrupt the play.
Near the end of a scoreless first period, Sam Reinhart had a breakaway after he flew out of the penalty box following a penalty. He was stopped by the left pad of a sprawling Grubauer.
The Avalanche were missing a big chunk of their offense in the absence of Landeskog, who was hurt Thursday at Dallas when he collided with Stars goaltender Ben Bishop. Landeskog has 33 goals this season.
NOTES: Sabres D Jake McCabe (upper body) missed a third straight game. ... Colorado D Tyson Barrie recorded his 40th assist of the season. ... Colorado beat Buffalo 6-1 on Oct. 11.
Sabres: Host Dallas on Tuesday night.
Avalanche: Host Carolina on Monday night.