DENVER — Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog both recorded a goal and an assist during a four-goal, second-period flurry to lead the Colorado Avalanche over the Vegas Golden Knights 5-1 in a West Division showdown Thursday night.
Joonas Donskoi and J.T. Compher also scored in a pivotal middle period during which the Avalanche outshot Vegas by a 16-5 margin to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare added another goal early in the third.
Philipp Grubauer stopped 17 shots to earn his eighth straight win. The victory allowed the Avalanche to pull even in points (45) with the division-leading Golden Knights. The teams play again at Ball Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Vegas got off to a fast start when Max Pacioretty scored 40 seconds into the game. Marc-Andre Fleury was solid in the opening period before struggling in the second, allowing four goals over an 11:37 span.
Fleury finished with 27 saves.
Donskoi tied it when he took a golf swing to knock in a bouncing puck on a power play. Compher gave the Avalanche the lead 5:11 later in the second on a shot that handcuffed Fleury.
Landeskog helped set up Makar's hold-off-a-defender goal and Makar returned the favour by assisting on Landeskog's score down low to make it 4-1.
That was more than enough for Grubauer, who improved to 20-7 this season. He becomes the first goaltender in Avalanche/Nordiques history to reach 20 wins in fewer than 30 appearances, according to the team.
Colorado took the first of a two-game mini-series with Vegas in Denver. Both viewed the matchup as almost a playoff preview.
“It’s always a good challenge to see where our game is at,” Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “If we want to win it all, we’re definitely going to have to go through each other.”
Pacioretty didn't take long to make an impact after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury. He split two Colorado defenders and then beat Grubauer with a backhand shot.
It was career goal No. 297 for Pacioretty.
Colorado's scoreless first period broke a string of tallying at least a goal in 20 straight periods (not counting overtime). That mark was a franchise record.
For the pregame warmup, the Avalanche wore specially designed jerseys with “Boulder Strong” on the back. All the jerseys featured No. 10 to represent the 10 people, including a police officer, who were killed in the mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, on Monday.
The jerseys will be signed and auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Colorado Healing Fund, which supports victims, families, and the community affected by mass violence.
There was also a moment of silence.
Vegas centre Nicolas Roy had his goal late in the third period taken off the board after Colorado won a challenge for offsides.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar remains unsure if he will have defenceman Erik Johnson (upper body injury) or goaltender Pavel Francouz (lower body) at any point this season.
“Long-term guys,” Bednar said. “I wouldn’t put a date on it.”
Matt Calvert was out Thursday as he dealt with nagging injuries.
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Pat Graham, The Associated Press