DENVER (AP) — Nathan MacKinnon had two special guests in the stands — his mom and dad.
He treated them — along with a boisterous crowd chanting “M-V-P” — to quite a show.
MacKinnon capped his first career playoff hat trick with an empty-net goal to help the Colorado Avalanche pull away late for a 6-3 win over St. Louis in Game 2 on Wednesday night after the Blues avoided a pregame virus scare that nearly sidelined several players.
“They’ve been with me every step of the way,” MacKinnon said of his parents. “I’m so glad they got to get up here.”
The speedy forward always seems to raise his game this time of year. The difficult-to-defend MacKinnon now has five goals and two assists in a series the Avalanche lead 2-0.
Game 3 will be Friday in St. Louis.
MacKinnon also has a 1.45 points-per-game average in the postseason, which is among the highest in NHL history.
But in typical MacKinnon fashion, he deflected credit to his linemates — Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, who each had two assists.
“Without those guys battling and mucking it up in front when I’m up high, those pucks don’t go in,” MacKinnon explained. “Everyone’s helping out for sure.”
Joonas Donskoi scored twice and Brandon Saad added an empty-netter.
Trailing 3-0, Sammy Blais scored for St. Louis in the second and Brayden Schenn added another with 9:53 remaining to make it a one-goal game. Schenn’s power-play goal followed Nazem Kadri being assessed a five-minute penalty for an illegal check to the head of Justin Faulk.
MacKinnon gave Colorado a 4-2 lead with 4:35 remaining, only to see Mike Hoffman score 15 seconds later. Saad scored an empty-netter with 2:09 left and MacKinnon added another with 11.9 seconds remaining, with fans tossing hats onto the ice in celebration.
“We kept our cool pretty good,” Donskoi said. “We’re a confident team right now.”
The Blues took some confidence from their late spurt, too.
“When we do things the right way and dictate it we make it difficult on them,” St. Louis captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s something we have to build on.”
MacKinnon’s hat trick was the first in the postseason by an Avalanche player in 24 years. MacKinnon also had an assist.
Philipp Grubauer finished with 32 saves.
Donskoi scored 35 seconds into the game, the second-fastest goal to start a playoff game in Colorado/Quebec history, according to NHL research. The fastest was 29 seconds by Quebec’s Wilf Paiement in Game 2 of the 1982 division finals.
The anxiety level for St. Louis increased well before puck even dropped when several Blues players returned positive COVID-19 tests. Later, they were cleared after the results from a lab were investigated with follow-up tests coming back negative.
Among those missing from the morning skate were forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, along with goaltender Jordan Binnington.
“I’m not going to say if that had an effect on the game. We’ve got to come out of the gate a little bit better than we did here in Colorado,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We can’t give up the shots we gave up in he first periods.”
The Blues remained without leading scorer David Perron, who’s been on the COVID-19 protocol list since the weekend.
The speedy Avalanche kept constant pressure on Binnington, who made 29 saves.
Faulk was shaken up when he was leveled by Kadri in the middle of Colorado’s defensive zone during the third. Faulk stayed down for a moment as officials reviewed the play. The major penalty was upheld and Kadri was removed from the game.
“That’s a very dangerous hit. It’s got to be a suspension,” O’Reilly said. “It’s dangerous. He’s a repeat offender. It’s completely uncalled for. It’s awful to see.”
Colorado coach Jared Bednar thinks the league may have a look as well.
“It’s hard sometimes to figure out what the league suspends guys for and what they don’t,” Bednar said. “We’ll see what they come back with.”
Berube had no updates on injured defensemen Faulk and Robert Bortuzzo, who left the game after what appeared to be an elbow near the head from Tyson Jost.
“Greasy elbow by Josty,” Schenn said. “I understand he’s going into the battle but you’ve got to know how to control your elbow and not get it up in a D-man’s face.”
According to the league, MacKinnon was the seventh different Avalanche/Nordiques player with a postseason hat trick. He also was the first since Valeri Kamensky in Game 5 of the 1997 conference quarterfinals.
THIS & THAT
Blues D Torey Krug had two assists. … Since moving to Denver, Colorado is 13-1 in best-of-seven postseason series when winning the first two games.
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