DENVER – Gabriel Landeskog has been a vocal captain for the Colorado Avalanche. This time, he led by example and carried his team to victory.
Landeskog scored three goals — one on a penalty shot — for his first career hat trick, Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and four assists and Colorado made it a successful return from Sweden with a 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
Mikko Rantanen added a goal and three assists, Colin Wilson also scored and Semyon Varlamov had 28 saves for the Avalanche.
“The two points are the important thing,” Landeskog said. “We knew this was a big game for us. We hadn’t played in a while and the Sweden trip didn’t go as well as we wanted.”
Colorado was playing at home for the first time in two weeks and for just the fifth time overall in that span. The gap included a trip to Sweden to play two games against Ottawa last weekend and Matt Duchene, traded by the Avalanche to the Senators on Nov. 5.
Colorado got four players and three draft picks in the three-way deal, and two of those players were on the ice Thursday. Sam Girard, a 19-year-old defenseman, got an assist on MacKinnon’s goal at the end of the first period.
Colorado’s other new rookie, center Vladislav Kamenev, made his Avalanche debut but left in the second period with a broken arm sustained on a check by Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik.
“You hate to see that,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “A kid coming up and getting a good opportunity to jump in and he’s new to the organization. I know he really wants to impress. He’s a little bit down in the dumps. He suffered a pretty bad injury and he’s going to miss some time.”
Phillip Grubauer made 22 saves and Brett Connolly and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for the Capitals.
Washington has allowed six goals in consecutive games, which prompted a quick team meeting after the game.
“The only two areas we were good were faceoffs and I thought power play,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Our power play generated a lot of chances and zone time. Other than that, puck battles, races, 1-on-1 play, that was all junk. Not good enough.”
Landeskog had one assist in the two losses to Ottawa in his home country, but the disappointment didn’t carry over. He started the scoring 17 seconds into the game and added his second goal when he beat Grubauer on a penalty shot at 4:59 of the third period to give Colorado a 4-1 lead.
“It was big,” he said. “I’m not really a shootout specialist by any means but I was able to sneak that one in.”
Landeskog completed his hat trick with a power-play goal at 19:35 of the third. He has eight goals this season to lead Colorado.
“It felt good to get that third one,” Landeskog said. “I had a couple of good looks before.”
MacKinnon made it 2-0 with his sixth goal at 19:53 of the first. Wilson scored at 12:25 of the second and Rantanen added a power-play goal late in the third.
Connolly cut the deficit to 3-1 with his second goal at 18:36 of the second. The Avalanche had a goal disallowed on goaltender interference a minute later.
NOTES: Avalanche D Tyson Barrie was out with an upper-body injury but should be back in the lineup soon. D Anton Lindholm (broken jaw) and D Patrik Nemeth (lower-body injury) were also out. ... Washington rookie D Christian Djoos was out with an upper-body injury. ... Colorado C Tyson Jost was sent to San Antonio of the AHL for conditioning. Jost has missed eight straight games and 10 of the last 12 with lower-body injuries.
UP NEXTCapitals: Host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
Avalanche: At the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.