NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Mikko Ratanen made the most of a chance to play on Colorado Avalanche’s top line with Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.
Rantanen scored three goals after being moved to the top line in the second period and the Avalanche beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 Saturday night.
“He was great tonight,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “Right away, early on the forecheck, getting up and getting physical and stripping pucks back and checking pucks back in the offensive zone.”
Bednar felt Rantanen gave MacKinnon’s line a boost when he was moved into Joonas Donskoi’s spot on the right wing.
“The MacKinnon line was just average in the first so we flipped the lines there and put Ratanen with them and they scored a couple goals in that period right away,” Bednar said. “I thought Mikko was a driving force to our offense tonight for sure.”
The hat trick was Rantanen’s second. He had one against Montreal on Feb. 7, 2017.
“I had some offensive struggles, but I got the bounces today,” he said. “You just have to keep grinding and when you get chances you know it’s going to come at some point and tonight was the night.”
Ian Cole and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare each had a goal and an assist for Colorado. Philipp Grubauer made 28 saves in posting his fourth win over the Devils in four tries.
Blake Coleman and Jesper Boqvist scored in the third period for the Devils, who ended a season-best three-game winning streak. Mackenzie Blackwood made 29 saves.
“They were the better team,” Devils interim coach Alain Nasreddine said. “For some reason tonight we did not have it or get to our style of play. We never really gave us a chance, Blackie did.”‘
After a scoreless first period, the Avalanche posted a two-goal second period and a goal in the opening seconds of the third.
Rantanen, who has 10 goals in 17 games since returning from an injury that sidelined him more than a month, opened the scoring at 11:23 of the second period. MacKinnon made the play, making a spin move and finding the Finn for a shot from the right dot.
Cole doubled the margin with 4:26 left in the period with a shot from the point shortly after Bellemare won a faceoff.
Rantanen got his second of the game 8 seconds into the final period when he was set up in front by rookie defenseman Cale Makar. The third was put into an empty net with 16 seconds to play.
Coleman made it 3-1 at 6:36, but Bellemare scored a disputed goal at 13:49. Matt Calvert inadvertently tripped Blackwood behind the cage and Bellemare ripped a shot into a open net. The Devils challenged, but the ruling on the ice was not changed.
“It’s a tough call to make, every play is different,” Devils forward Kyle Palmieri said.
Blackwood felt he was tripped but added the call didn’t cost the Devils the game.
The Avs had a goal waved off in the first period when Donskoi used a high stick to knock a rebound out of the air past Blackwood.
NOTES: Avs C Nazem Kadri played in his 600th NHL game. … Makar has 23 assists and 32 points this season. … Avs D Samuel Girard has eight assists in the last three games. … No. 1 overall draft pick Jack Hughes missed his second straight game with upper-body injury. … F Jesper Bratt out with lower-body injury. …. Devils recalled F Ben Street from Binghamton (AHL).
Avalanche: At Islanders on Monday night in the second game of New York area tour.
Devils: Home against Islanders on Tuesday night.
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