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Nathan MacKinnon's hat trick clinches Central Division title

Meghan Angley Avatar
April 15, 2023

The Colorado Avalanche found themselves at the NHL’s season finale in a tight division title battle with the Dallas Stars. Despite 459+ man games lost to injury, they were here. It was pretty simple: the Avs just needed to beat tonight’s opponent – the Nashville Predators – any which way. Whether their path to another Cup would run through Seattle or Minnesota hung in the balance.

It wouldn’t cap off the season any more appropriately than to have both teams play on the second leg of a back-to-back. Alexandar Georgiev had the chance to secure his 40th win of the season with his start in net.

First Period

Twenty-eight seconds into its start, Colorado shut down any question of their motive (or lack thereof) to win this game. 

The Avs harmlessly moved the puck around the perimeter. Sam Girard absorbed some contact behind the goal line, Evan Rodrigues helped to poke it ahead, and Nathan MacKinnon got it up to Devon Toews at the blueline. Toews wristed it in from up high.

Three minutes later, Rantanen nudged the puck around the back of the net similar to the first play, Toews sent it up to MacKinnon high along the half wall. From there, MacKinnon walked through Colton Sissons to the bottom of the crease and wristed it in past Kevin Lankinen.

At 5:42, Nashville set up in the Avs’ end. Ben Meyers and Jack Johnson engaged in the necessary battles, but Kiefer Sherwood ultimately got the puck alone at the right circle and fired a wrist shot. Bo Byram skated in, intending to take his lane away, but it got through.

Near the midway point, Mikko Rantanen received a late check from Yakov Trenin. He resumed play on the subsequent powerplay, but went to the room after getting pulled by concussion spotters – he did eventually return for a shift near the period’s end and completed the game.

Then with 6:46 remaining, Girard angled the puck out of Colorado’s end and MacKinnon took off on the rush. He split two Nashville defenders, Ryan McDonagh and Dante Fabbro, stickhandled, and backhanded it in.

Shortly after, Lars Eller drew a high-sticking penalty. Through two of their powerplay chances, only Val Nichushkin got a puck on net.

It was a dominant period. Colorado outshot Nashville 18-4 and completely controlled the course of the game.

Second Period

The first half of the second period unfolded very differently.

Two minutes into its start, Colorado went off for the long change. It should have been standard change, but a stretch pass made its way to Cal Foote at the defensive blueline. Kurtis MacDermid was the defender back and was over-eager to engage and instead Tommy Novak collected the puck and breezed past him all alone. Novak made the cross-slot pass to Luke Evangelista and he wristed it in from the right circle. Alex Newhook could be seen coming into the play to try and tie him up, but he just wasn’t fast enough.

Minutes later, MacDermid took a tripping penalty and the Avs went on the kill. Trenin made a smart pass to Kiefer Sherwood in the slot, and Sherwood banged home his second of the night. MacDermid didn’t skate another shift.

With just over six minutes remaining, the Avs only had two shots on net from Lars Eller and Jack Johnson.

Late in the period, Evan Rodrigues went to the box for slashing. Colorado held them to one shot and would live to see the next period.

In this frame, they were outshot 8-5 and looked disengaged.

Third Period

Dante Fabbro went off for roughing at 0:42. Devon Toews and Artturi Lehkonen managed to get a shot on net on the subsequent powerplay.

A few minutes later, the Avs had another important powerplay opportunity: on a drive to the net, Matt Nieto was brazenly taken down and Colorado received the man advantage.

The Avs looked more dangerous in the final period and regained control in the possession battle, but Nashville played a physical contest. It was highly punishing and walked the line at times. The Predators were also eating pucks in 20 blocked shots.

The intensity ramped up between both teams in the final five minutes.

Colorado needed a hero.

With just 1:47 remaining, Bo Byram made an important block on Sissons’ shot and Mikko Rantanen was able to snatch it and make a clean exit with Nathan MacKinnon streaking ahead.

Rantanen sent it ahead to MacKinnon and together they skated in on a two-on-one. MacKinnon snapped the game-winning goal in – his third of the night making his final act a hat trick.

That was curtains on the rigorous 82-game regular season.

The Avs took the Central Division crown and would face the Seattle Kraken in round one.


On January 15th, the Avs were 14 points behind the first-place Jets. Ninety days later, they’ve added their third consecutive division championship. The title not only promised home ice through two rounds but also solidified their first-round opponent: the Seattle Kraken would make their playoff debut against the defending title team.

Nathan MacKinnon concluded the year with his fourth career hat trick and a whopping 111 points this season.

Mikko Rantanen, who dressed in all 82 games this year, had two assists on the night to make his points total 105.

Also etching his name in franchise history, Alexandar Georgiev posted his 40th win of the season tying Patrick Roy (2000-01) for the second-most in a season – just one win behind Semyon Varlamov.

The Avs finished the 2022-23 regular season with their 13th back-to-back set, finishing 19-5-2 overall in back-to-back contests this season and securing the league’s best record on the second night at 10-2-1.

Colorado swept their final four back-to-back sets of the season and won eight of their last ten.

There were plenty of points this season that the Avs were down, but they were never out.


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