DENVER — Erik Johnson scored on a breakaway with 9.9 seconds remaining on the clock in overtime, Jonathan Bernier stopped 22 shots after taking over for an injured Semyon Varlamov in the second period and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon also scored to help the Avalanche win their third straight.
Johnson scored the winner when Rantanen poked the puck ahead to him. Johnson put it past Connor Hellebuyck, one of the stingiest goaltenders in the NHL of late.
Both teams had plenty of chances in overtime, with Rantanen robbed by Hellebuyck down low and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien stopped by Bernier on a breakaway moments later. Gabriel Landeskog had an open net with just under a minute remaining in the extra period, but sent the puck wide.
Blake Wheeler scored twice for the Jets, including the tying goal with 32.2 seconds remaining in regulation and Hellebuyck on the bench for an extra skater.
Varlamov turned back 21 shots before retreating to the locker room with a lower-body injury. It’s concerning for Colorado, given that Varlamov was limited to 24 games last season due to a nagging groin injury that he tried to remedy through hip surgery.
Bernier was thrown into a difficult situation as he entered with 5:45 left in the second and the Jets on the power play. He quickly warmed up, though.
The Avalanche killed off three more penalties to run their streak to 36 straight before Wheeler ended it with a power-play goal 47 seconds into the third period.
Wheeler’s tying goal in the waning seconds seemed to be set up after a bizarre carom off the boards as Bernier went behind the net to cut off the puck. Bernier had to dive back in front, but it wasn’t in time.
MacKinnon scored his 17th goal of the season in the second period and set up Rantanen’s tally 3:47 later to give Colorado a 2-0 lead. The speedy MacKinnon was in the top five in scoring on New Year’s Day — significant because the last Avs player to do that was Joe Sakic in 2003-04.
The high-scoring Jets had a couple of quality scoring chances in a scoreless first period. Andrew Copp had his shot blocked by Johnson when the defenceman crouched in front of the net. Later, Nikolaj Ehlers’ shot was gloved by Varlamov on a mini-breakaway.
The Avs have been a completely different squad this season and find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase. The team already is 18 points ahead of where it was at this juncture a season ago.
“We’re feeling good, feel like we’re playing good hockey,” MacKinnon said. “We’re not good enough to get comfortable — that’s for sure.”
NOTES: Byfuglien returned to the lineup after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury. … Avalanche forward Sven Andrighetto is day to day with a lower-body injury. … The team recalled forward F A.J. Greer from San Antonio of the American Hockey League. … Colorado will retire Milan Hejduk’s No. 23 on Saturday.
Jets: Return home Friday to face Buffalo.
Avalanche: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
Pat Graham, The Associated Press
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