DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche stayed relatively quiet at the NHL trade deadline. Now that Nathan MacKinnon is healthy, maybe that’s all they need for a playoff push.
MacKinnon had two goals and an assist, Mikko Rantanen added a goal and an assist and the Avalanche beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Monday night.
Semyon Varlamov made 31 saves and came within 1:16 of his third shutout this season. Colorado won for the 11th time in 12 home games and moved within two points of idle Calgary for the second wild card in the Western Conference.
The Flames are in town Wednesday night.
“Yeah, it is (a big game),” MacKinnon said.
Daniel Sedin scored and Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 shots for the Canucks.
On a day when big names were on the move all over the league, Colorado general manager Joe Sakic opted not to make a major trade to bolster his team’s playoff charge. He completed one minor deal, shipping Chris Bigras to the New York Rangers for 22-year-old Ryan Graves.
Sakic said he didn’t want to trade one of his young assets for a rental player even though Colorado is chasing a postseason berth. He also didn’t want to deal away a veteran and disrupt team chemistry with a chance at making the playoffs.
“If we were 10 points out we probably would have had a different approach,” Sakic said before the game.
Sakic already made a blockbuster move in early November when he traded disgruntled center Matt Duchene to Ottawa in a three-team swap. Colorado got four players and three draft picks in the deal.
Vancouver, which entered Monday 18 points out of a playoff spot, traded a couple of veterans before the deadline Monday afternoon. The Canucks acquired forwards Tyler Motte and Jussi Jokinen from Columbus for Thomas Vanek and later sent defenseman Philip Holm to Vegas for forward Brendan Leipsic.
“He definitely loosens the locker room a bit,” Vancouver forward Jake Virtanen said of Vanek. “He talks a lot in the room. He’s a great teammate and it (stinks) to see him go. Columbus will be lucky to have him.”
Canucks coach Travis Green said Jokinen, Motte and Leipsic will meet the team in Vancouver.
MacKinnon had four goals and 10 assists in 14 games before Duchene was traded and has 24 goals and 31 assists since the Nov. 5 deal. A shoulder injury that cost MacKinnon the first eight games of February hasn’t slowed him. He has four goals and four assists in the five games since his return last week.
“There is all this talk of MVP. I have seen him a few times and for me, I think it’s got to be him,” Sedin said. “He’s impressive.”
MacKinnon gave the Avalanche a two-goal lead at 7:52 of the third period, moments after Virtanen hit a post at the other end. MacKinnon beat Markstrom on the ensuing rush.
Sedin scored with Markstrom pulled, but MacKinnon scored into the empty net at 19:15.
“I had a lot of really good looks,” said MacKinnon, who has career highs in goals (28) and assists (41). “I wanted to be aggressive and I’m not sure how many shots I finished with, but definitely enough to score.”
Rantanen scored his 20th goal with 24 seconds left in the first period to give Colorado the lead. He had a second one disallowed after Vancouver challenged for goaltender interference.
Green challenged that Gabriel Landeskog interfered with Markstrom, and the goal was disallowed after a video review.
NOTES: MacKinnon had nine shots on goal and 19 overall attempts. ... Colorado claimed D Mark Alt on waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers. Sakic said Alt adds depth to the blue line, which is currently without Erik Johnson, Mark Barberio and Anton Lindholm. ... Jokinen and Leipsic were listed as scratches. ... Avalanche D Nikita Zadorov was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games.
Canucks: Host the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Avalanche: Host the Flames on Wednesday night.