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MacKinnon’s shootout goal gives Avs 2-1 win over Maple Leafs

MacKinnon’s shootout goal gives Avs 2-1 win over Maple Leafs

TORONTO (AP) Nathan MacKinnon was the only scorer in the shootout as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Mikko Rantanen scored in regulation for Colorado (38-22-6).

MacKinnon’s five-game goal streak came to an end, but his play carried Colorado to the win.

“Been playing awesome,” Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram said of MacKinnon, who entered with 15 goals in his last 15 games. “He’s the guy that our team follows. When he’s going, I feel like everyone else is sharper.”

Alexandar Georgiev made 17 saves for injury-ravaged Colorado (38-22-6), which has found its game since the All-Star break and climbed within five points of the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars with two games in hand.

“That dedication to the way we have to play to have success is the key to it,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said. “Some nights we’re as good as we want to be. Seems like recently we’ve wanted to win these hockey games. We know they’re important. Winning the division isn’t the be all, end all. But certainly to have short-term goals like that and chase down the teams that are in front of us is part of it.

“It’s part of playing with a little bit of pressure, even if it’s self-induced.”

Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto (40-18-9). Ilya Samsonov stopped 28 shots.

“There wasn’t a whole lot that we gave up,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “They checked extremely hard to show you what a Stanley Cup-winning team does in terms of the defending.

“They’re well-known for the offense that they can generate with their elite players, but they defend extremely hard and make it difficult on you to get to their net.”

After a frantic overtime in which both teams had terrific chances, MacKinnon beat Samsonov on a nice deke on the Avalanche’s second shot.

Georgiev then denied Mitch Marner for Colorado, which improved to 4-4 in shootouts. Toronto dropped to 0-2 in shootouts.

Coming off A 4-3 home loss to Buffalo on Monday in which Toronto held a 2-0 lead late in the second period, the Maple Leafs opened the scoring three minutes into the first when Rielly scored his third, after earlier hitting the post.

The Avalanche responded on a power play later in the period, when Rantanen’s pass went in off Toronto defenseman Jake McCabe for his 44th of the season.

Samsonov stopped Valeri Nichushkin on a short-handed breakaway in the second before Cale Makar nearly went end-to-end on a rush, but…

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