Nathan MacKinnon scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:34 left, Philipp Grubauer had 31 saves and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 on Saturday night.
Nazem Kadri scored earlier in the third to tie the game, and MacKinnon beat Elvis Merzlikins with a slap shot from the left point as Avalanche rolled to their third straight win and sixth in the in the last seven games.
“We’re used to getting up and going and creating a lot of chances,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar, noting that it was the first time this season the team had to come from behind to win in the third period. “They were hard to come by tonight. I’m proud of the guys for sticking with it and finding a way in the third period to get the job done.”
Seth Jones scored for the Blue Jackets, and Merzlikins lost for the first time in the last 10 games. Columbus had an 11-game points streak and a three-game win streak snapped in losing a game in regulation for the first time since Jan. 9.
Merzlikins kept Colorado quiet for the first two periods and most of the third. Despite the Avs hitting a crossbar or post at least five times, it looked as if the Latvian rookie might be on the way to a third straight shutout. He finished with 20 saves.
The Avs got close near the end of the first period when Andre Burakovsky rifled a shot from just outside the circles that clanged the crossbar and fell inches in front of the goal line before bouncing out of the blue paint. That was one of least five times in the game they hit posts or the crossbar.
After leaving the game with an injury in the first period, Jones came out in the second and got the Blue Jackets on the board when he picked up the faceoff and snapped in a shot from the top of the left circle on a power play. His sixth goal of the season came 9:30 into the second.
Colorado, leading the league in goals per game, finally found the back of the net. Kadri tied the game with 8:15 left in the game when he beat Merzlikins on the glove side. Then came MacKinnon’s blast late to seal it.
“You saw the goal,” said Merzlikins, who lost for first time in nine starts. “That’s one shot from the blue line, no screen. I don’t care, he has a good shot. I have to take that one. There’s nothing more to say about that.”
The Avalanche, who are in second place in the Central Division, are 6-1-0 in their past seven games following a four-game winless streak.
“It was a character win and one of the best of the season,” Kadri said. “It’s not easy to play against a team that plays defensively, has a hot goaltender, doesn’t give you much offensively.”
Columbus was just 1 for 6 on power plays. Scoring with a man advantage has been a weakness for the Blue Jackets during the recent surge.
“(Penalty kill) had a big night for us,” Bednar said. “We took some questionable, undisciplined penalties through the game and spent a lot of time on the penalty kill, but those guys did a really nice job.”
NOTES: Merzlikins didn’t allow a goal for 174:40 over three games, the third-longest streak in franchise history. ... The Blue Jackets had double-digit point streaks in the same season for the first time in franchise history. They had a 12-game streak (8-0-4) from Dec. 9-Jan. 2. ... MacKinnon has a goal and two assists in the past three games. ... The loss ended Columbus’ six-game home win streak.
Avalanche: Concludes a five-game road trip Sunday in Minnesota.
Blue Jackets: Host Tampa Bay on Monday.