DENVER (AP) — It seems nothing can stop Nathan MacKinnon during what's been a career year. Not a shoulder injury that cost him eight games, and certainly not the Minnesota Wild.
MacKinnon had two goals and three assists, Mikko Rantanen had a goal and three assists and the Avalanche beat Minnesota 7-1 on Friday night.
The five points tied a career high for MacKinnon, who also set personal bests in goals (31) and assists (45) for the season. He reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his five-year career.
MacKinnon has seven goals and eight assists in seven games since returning from a shoulder injury Feb. 18. He was second in the NHL in scoring when he went down Jan. 30, and Friday's five-point night moved him into fourth overall.
"I don't know what he did when he was gone but he clearly was doing something right because he's come back in real good shape and he picked up where he left off," linemate Gabriel Landeskog said.
MacKinnon's other five-point game was Nov. 16 against Washington.
"I wish I didn't miss those eight games, but I definitely do feel good," MacKinnon said. "Hopefully if we can make the playoffs, it'll be a blessing. If we don't, it won't be. If we squeak in, I'll be a little fresher than some of the other guys."
Tyson Barrie had a goal and an assist, and Landeskog, Carl Soderberg and Matt Nieto also scored to help Colorado gain ground in the Western Conference playoff race with its 13th win in 14 home games.
The Avalanche jumped over idle St. Louis and stayed a point behind Anaheim for the second wild card with 75 points. The Ducks beat Columbus 4-2 on Friday.
"We're not just trying to chase the last wild card, we're trying to be a team in the division and solidify a guaranteed spot — in the top three," MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon is trying to lead his team to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, when the Wild upset the No. 2-seeded Avalanche in seven games. He is giving the Wild some payback with eight points in the last two games.
Colorado has scored seven goals in both home games against Minnesota.
Mikko Koivu scored for the Wild, who have lost two straight after winning five in a row to move into third in the Central Division. Minnesota has a four-point lead on Colorado and has played one more game than the Avalanche.
"Now when you lose one or two in a row teams are gaining on you all over the place," Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Devan Dubnyk allowed five goals on 17 shots before being replaced by Alex Stalock after Soderberg's goal. Stalock had seven saves for the Wild, who have allowed seven goals in both games in Colorado this season.
Landeskog and MacKinnon scored 2:26 apart midway through the first period to give Colorado a 2-0 lead, and then the Avalanche put it away in the second.
After Barrie made it 3-0, MacKinnon, Soderberg and Rantanen each scored in a span of 4:32 to make it 6-0. Soderberg's tally, which went off Eric Staal's skate, chased Dubnyk.
"I'd like to get the fourth one," Dubnyk said. "I don't know what happened on the fifth one."
Koivu spoiled Semyon Varlamov's shutout bid with his 12th goal at 17:07 of the second period. Varlamov finished with 31 saves.
NOTES: Colorado C Colin Wilson suffered an upper-body injury in the second period and did not return. ... Avalanche D Anton Lindholm returned after missing five games with an elbow injury. ... Minnesota is 4-6-1 in the second night of back-to-back games. ... Colorado announced it had signed D Connor Timmins to an entry-level contract that begins next season. Timmins was the Avalanche's second-round draft pick last June. ... Wild C Charlie Coyle turned 26 on Friday.
Wild: Host Detroit on Sunday.
Avalanche: Host Nashville on Sunday.
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