Grubauer, MacKinnon help Avs shut out Sabres

Philipp Grubauer had 18 saves for his second shutout of the season, Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the slumping Buffalo Sabres 3-0 in Denver on Saturday.

Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Bourque also scored for the Avalanche (30-27-12, 72 points), who moved within two points of idle Minnesota for the second wild card in the Western Conference.

Carter Hutton had 40 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres (30-29-9, 69) have lost four straight and are 2-8-2 in their last 12 games.

The Avalanche played for the first time since losing captain Gabriel Landeskog for the rest of the regular season. The team announced Friday he would miss four to six weeks with an upper-body injury suffered in Dallas on Thursday.

Colorado held a 26-7 advantage in shots through the first two periods but managed only one goal heading into the third period. It came when MacKinnon stole a clearing pass from Buffalo rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and kept control despite being knocked down from behind by Sabres forward Jack Eichel.

MacKinnon then maneuvered around Dahlin as he came into the Sabres’ zone. He skated into the slot and beat Hutton with a wrister into the top right corner at 3:14 of the second.

It was MacKinnon’s team-leading 35th goal of the season.

Rantanen made it 2-0 with a power-play tally midway through the third period. With Colorado on a 4-on-3 advantage, defenseman Tyson Barrie fed Rantanen in the right circle, he stickhandled for a moment and then beat Hutton with a shot off the post at 10:13. It was his 30th of the season.

Hutton went off for an extra skater with more than two minutes left, and the Sabres got several shots on Grubauer, but Bourque sealed it with an empty-netter at 18:50. It was his first goal of the season.

Things were physical throughout, starting with a big hit by former Buffalo defenseman Nikita Zadorov midway through the first. Zadorov hit Eichel high, and Eichel’s head snapped back, but Zadorov only received a two-minute minor.

Eichel then delivered a headshot to Carl Soderberg late in the second period, also drawing a two-minute minor.

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