DENVER (AP) — Already in full desperation mode, the Colorado Avalanche found an even higher level.
It may have just saved their season.
Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie scored a minute apart to ignite a four-goal second period as the playoff-chasing Avalanche rallied for a 6-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
“It just kind of shows how much character we have in this room,” Barrie said of the comeback. “We made some great plays.”
Down 2-0 after the opening period to an Edmonton team already eliminated from postseason contention, the Avalanche surged in the second. MacKinnon started the scoring spree with his 40th goal of the season, while Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and Colin Wilson soon joined in. All four goals were scored in a 7:08 span.
Colorado extended its lead over Arizona to four points for the final wild-card spot in the West. Both teams have two games remaining.
“We see the standings. We got through tonight and that’s huge,” Kerfoot said. “It’s all we can do.”
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov shook off some early rust in his first appearance since March 15 and finished with 27 saves. He was stepping in for a sizzling Philipp Grubauer for the second game of a back-to-back.
“When they scored that last goal, I was kind of upset,” Varlamov said. “I knew it’s an important game and it doesn’t matter how the first period goes. I had to stay focused the whole game.
“I appreciate that the coach gave me a chance to play. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision because I haven’t played for a long time.”
Milan Lucic and Darnell Nurse had goals for Edmonton, while Mikko Koskinen stopped 23 shots.
“You get pushed in the second and we didn’t have an answer for it,” Nurse said. “They had more intensity in those last 40 minutes than we did.”
Koskinen had a spectacular save early in the second period with Colorado on the power play. On his back, Koskinen reached his arms over his head and just so happened to deflect MacKinnon’s shot with his glove at the goal line.
Soon after, MacKinnon and the Avalanche broke the game open.
With his goal, MacKinnon joined Joe Sakic (three times) and Milan Hejduk (twice) as the only Avalanche players to reach the 40-goal mark for a season since the franchise relocated to Denver.
Kerfoot knocked in the go-ahead goal late in the second period. It was his second straight night with a big tally. In St. Louis on Monday, Kerfoot tied the game in the final minute of regulation to secure a valuable point before Colorado lost in a shootout.
“I’m just trying to contribute,” Kerfoot said. “You’re not always going to put up points, but it’s nice when it happens.”
Lucic scored his first goal since Jan. 19 and Nurse added another in a dominating first period by Edmonton. The Oilers couldn’t sustain the momentum.
“Frankly there are a lot of people burned out from chasing,” Edmonton coach Ken Hitchcock said. “So every mistake is magnified and it just seems like when you have to climb, climb, climb, it looks like we are tired doing the climbing.”
Connor McDavid and the Oilers were eliminated from the postseason Monday. McDavid said that night after a loss in Vegas his frustration level was high in missing the playoffs for a third time in his four seasons.
“If you’re frustrated it usually gets replaced sometime during the summer by determination,” Hitchcock said in an interview posted on the team’s website. “When you put as much into the season as a lot of these players put in and you don’t have success, you’d hope they’d be frustrated, and angry and disappointed and whatever other emotion you want to go there.”
NOTES: Edmonton F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two assists. ... Avalanche F Matt Nieto had an assist in his 400th NHL game. ... Colorado had 13 different players pick up at least a point. ... Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog had two assists.
Oilers: Host San Jose on Thursday.
Avalanche: Host Winnipeg on Thursday.