DENVER | Nathan MacKinnon scored twice, Darcy Kuemper stopped a career-best 46 shots in his fourth shutout of the season and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Calgary Flames 3-0 on Sunday night.
It was a measure of atonement for Kuemper, who was pulled early in the second period last weekend when the top two teams in the Western Conference faced each other in Calgary’s 4-3 overtime win.
MacKinnon scored on a power play in the first period and added another goal in the third. Mikko Rantanen sealed it on an empty-net tally with 1:38 remaining to help the Avalanche post their best record through 60 games in franchise history (42-13-5, 89 points).
Dan Vladar made 29 saves against the speedy Avalanche.
The Flames were playing the second game of a back-to-back, but hardly looked sluggish and controlled the tempo early in the game.
Kuemper was not exactly happy when he was yanked last weekend after allowing a third goal. He came up with timely save after timely save Sunday, including a blind block with his stick in the third with teammate Kurtis MacDermid falling into him.
It was Kuemper’s career-best 28th win of the season.
The Flames stayed in the game during the second period thanks to Vladar. He stopped a wide-open shot by Erik Johnson by sliding over and deflecting the puck with his left pad.
About 15 seconds later, Andre Burakovsky dinged a shot off the post. And then, he faced a goaltender’s nightmare: MacKinnon open in front of the net. But Vladar’s arm blocked his shot.
Kuemper also came up big on a 2-on-1 break by the Flames.
MacKinnon scored his 20th goal of the season on a wrist shot that got by Vladar midway through the first period to give Colorado a 1-0 lead. The Avalanche thought they added another a few minutes later when Alex Newhook’s shot beat Vladar, clanging off one post and then the other.
Newhook even lifted his stick in celebration as the goal-horn sounded, but the official motioned to keep playing. Replays showed the puck never crossed the line.
The best save of the opening period was turned in by Colorado defenseman Devon Toews after a shot by Elias Lindholm trickled toward the net. Toews reached behind Kuemper and knocked it away.
Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram (personal leave) has been skating with the team. Fellow blue-liner Samuel Girard is expected to be out about a month with a lower-body injury. … Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is slated for knee surgery Monday. … Flames D Oliver Kylington missed a second straight game with a lower-body injury.
Flames: Host the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.
Avalanche: Start a two-game trip Tuesday in Los Angeles against the Kings.