Avalanche erupts from wretched first period to blow out Edmonton

It was a gallant change of heart.

The first period felt like a funeral. The Avalanche played as if its playoff hopes were dead during the first 20 minutes Tuesday at the Pepsi Center.

The Edmonton Oilers, who were eliminated from the postseason by losing Monday at Vegas, produced the game’s first nine shots in surprisingly dominating the Avs, who entered the game two points ahead of Arizona for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.


But then the second period began around the same time Arizona dropped the puck at home against the Los Angeles Kings, and the Avs — playing their 80th game in the 82-game season — took off. They scored three goals in the first 7:43 of the period and four within 12:04 to take command of a game they needed to win to control their own destiny.

Colorado got a second goal from Alex Kerfoot in the third period and another from Sven Andrighetto to coast to a 6-2 victory that extended its points streak to nine games (7-0-2). Goalie Semyon Varlamov got the win in his first appearance in nine games; Philipp Grubauer backstopped the eight previous games of the valiant playoff push.

Depending on Arizona’s late game, the Avs could potentially clinch a playoff spot in Thursday’s home game against the Winnipeg Jets. Colorado concludes the regular season Saturday at San Jose.

“It was kind of difficult, the first period,” Varlamov said. “I didn’t feel the net that well. It’s been a while. But the boys played unbelievable in the second period, scored four goals, and of course that gives you a boost in confidence.”

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Avs star center Nathan MacKinnon spearheaded the comeback with his career-high 40th goal of the season 4:56 into the second period. It came on the power play during Edmonton’s third consecutive penalty, after former Avalanche forward Brad Malone exited the penalty box and played the puck without having both skates on the ice. Malone previously was given a high-sticking minor at 2:28, before teammate Kris Russell was released for hooking at 38 seconds.

The Avalanche was coming off a 3-2 shootout loss at St. Louis on Monday in a game it trailed 2-0.

“Very similar to the first period we had (Monday) night,” Colorado captain Gabe Landeskog said. “We just weren’t skating, executing. I don’t what it was, nerves or whatever. But that second period, that’s the way we got to play. It’s not always going to work out by scoring four goals so we have to be ready from the get-go.”

Exactly 1 minute after MacKinnon’s goal, an defenseman Tyson Barrie scored with a wicked wrist shot from the right circle to tie it. And less than two minutes later the Avs took their first lead of the game with Kerfoot’s tap-in goal above the crease.

Colorado’s four-goal period was finalized when Colin Wilson fired a backhander from atop the hash marks at 12:04. Surprisingly, Colorado’s four goals in 12:04 was just the third-fastest allowed this season by the Oilers, who are known for big collapses.

“I liked our final 40 minutes,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Same thing as last night. I liked the way we competed. We got on our toes, getting after their D, causing turnovers, making plays in all three zones. We did a good job of getting pucks in traffic to the net.”

Footnotes. The Avalanche played its sixth consecutive game without all-star winger Mikko Rantanen, who has a rib/hip injury. …The Avs used the same lineup from Monday’s 3-2 shootout loss at St. Louis, but with Varlamov starting in net.

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