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Wednesday's NHL playoffs: MacKinnon records hat trick, Avs beat Blues 6-3 in Game 2

Associated Press

Nathan MacKinnon finished 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.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer, left, is congratulated by center Nathan MacKinnon after Game 2 of the team's NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in Denver.

Joonas Donskoi scored twice and Brandon Saad added an empty-netter as Colorado took a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series. Since moving to Denver, Colorado is 13-1 all-time in best-of-seven postseason series when capturing the first two games.

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.

It was the first hat trick by an Avalanche player in 24 years. MacKinnon also had an assist.

Philipp Grubauer finished with 32 saves.

Game 3 will be Friday in St. Louis.

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. 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 the ice 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.

Grubauer helped Colorado weather the long penalty, with one save after another.

MacKinnon's first-period goal was on a liner from the left side went through the legs of Robert Bortuzzo, then through the legs of Gabriel Landeskog and finally past a screened Binnington.

The difficult-to-defend MacKinnon has 61 points (25 goals, 36 assists) in 42 career playoff games.

Bruins 3, Capitals 2 (OT)

Craig Smith scored 5:48 into the second overtime Wednesday night to give the Boston Bruins a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals and a 2-1 lead in the East Division first-round playoff series.

Smith outraced defenseman Justin Schultz to a puck behind the Capitals net and swept it around into the goal to end the third straight overtime game in the series. It was the 11th straight one-goal playoff game between them since 1998.

Smith also had an assist, and Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall also scored for Boston. Tuukka Rask stopped 35 shots.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 800th combined regular-season and postseason goal, and Nic Dowd returned from a slap shot off the knee to add a goal for Washington. Ilya Samsonov returned from the COVID-19 list to make his playoff debut, stopping 40 shots for Washington, which lost the home-ice advantage after splitting the first two games at home.

Game 4 is Friday night in Boston.

Hurricanes 3, Predators 0

Sebastian Aho scored twice and Alex Nedeljkovic was sharp in net to lead a perfect showing for Carolina’s penalty kill, helping the Hurricanes beat Nashville for a 2-0 series lead.

Nedeljkovic finished with 32 saves for the shutout in his second playoff start. And he was under plenty of pressure considering the Hurricanes were called for nine penalties.

Warren Foegele also scored for Carolina.

Game is is Friday night in Nashville.

Jets 4, Oilers 1

Connor Helleybuyck made 32 saves on his 28th birthday, Dominic Toninato broke a tie midway through the third period and Winnipeg beat Edmonton in Game 1.

Playing just his third game for Winnipeg, Toninato tipped in Logan Stanley’s blast from the blue line, but the puck flew out so quickly it wasn’t immediately signaled a goal. The 27-year-old Toninato made his debut in the second-to-last game of the regular season.

Tucker Poolman tied it midway through the second, and Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler added empty-netters for Winnipeg in its first playoff meeting with Edmonton since 1990. Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi scored in his postseason debut.

Game 2 is Friday night in Edmonton.