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Mikko Rantanen's hat trick lifts Colorado Avalanche past Montreal Canadiens

By
Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange
St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo pushes Colorado Avalanche's Mikko Rantanen of Finland. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo pushes Colorado Avalanche's Mikko Rantanen of Finland. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche skated off the Bell Center ice in Montreal at the lowest point in a season full of futility. The 10-1 loss to the Canadiens on Dec. 10 turned into motivation for the rematch in Denver, and Mikko Rantanen made sure the Avalanche had a different ending.

Rantanen recorded the first hat trick of his career, Calvin Pickard made 27 saves for his second shutout of the season and the Avalanche defeated Montreal 4-0 on Tuesday night.

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Andres Martinsen also scored and Mark Barberio had two assists against his former team. Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog added two assists apiece for the Avalanche (15-33-2), who won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 19-21 and won two straight at home for the first time all season.

"I think we earned a little payback from what happened in Montreal," Rantanen said. "Nobody (was) happy. It was embarrassing."

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Rantanen, a 20-year-old rookie who played nine games with Colorado last season, has 11 goals. He was the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft and is one of two players Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said he will not consider dealing before the March 1 trade deadline.

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He showed why against the Canadiens with his third goal of the night on a 5-on-3 power play at 6:01 of the third.

"It's a dream come true," Rantanen said. "You watch other guys when you are younger, watch guys score hat tricks and the crowd is going wild, so it's a dream come true."

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It was the second hat trick for the Avalanche this season. Joe Colborne had one on opening night, when Colorado started the season with a 6-5 victory and won three of its first four games.

The Avalanche's last two-game winning streak made them 9-9-0 but they followed that with a 4-24-2 stretch.

The news wasn't all good for Colorado. Matt Nieto, who scored twice in Saturday's win, took a shot off his right leg late in the game and didn't return. He had an X-ray done but coach Jared Bednar said after the game there was no update on his condition.

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Carey Price recorded 22 saves for the Canadiens (30-17-8), who lost their fourth straight -- including a shootout loss against Edmonton on Sunday. First-place Montreal is still eight points ahead of Ottawa and Toronto in the Atlantic Division.

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"Every team goes through tough stretches," Price said. "It's important that we continue to have fun and not dwell on things when they're not going well. It always seems to be the recipe to get out of funks. It's what we're going to use."

Colorado, which stopped a nine-game losing streak with a victory over Winnipeg on Saturday, scored twice in the first 2:25 on Tuesday and was in control all game.

Rantanen got things started with a goal at 30 seconds to give Colorado the early lead. It was the fastest goal to start a period this season by the Avalanche.

Martinsen made it 2-0 with his third goal at 2:25 of the first.

"It was unacceptable the way we started," Montreal captain Max Pacioretty said. "We knew they were going to give it their all after the result in our building and we just played a very poor game. From the puck drop we didn't like the way we played. We need to find answers."

Montreal outshot Colorado 12-7 in the first period and 19-13 well into the second period but went down 3-0 on Rantanen's second goal and 10th of the season. His redirection in the slot of Barberio's shot from the point got past Price at 13:10.

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It's the first multi-goal game of Rantanen's short career.

Montreal managed only seven shots on goal in the third period.

"(The defensemen) were awesome in front of me," Pickard said. "I don't know if I faced a shot that I didn't see tonight and start to finish, it was a great effort from us."

NOTES: Avalanche D Tyson Barrie and F Rene Bourque were out again with lower-body injuries. Barrie returned for a game after missing four but is out again. Bourque missed five of the last seven games. ... Canadiens RW Brendan Gallagher missed his 16th straight game with a hand injury. He is close to returning but won't play when Montreal visits Arizona on Thursday night. ... Colorado D Fedor Tyutin was back in the lineup after missing three games with a hip injury. Eric Gelinas was scratched. ... Montreal D Nathan Beaulieu played his 200th career game. ... Jacob De La Rose and Greg Pateryn were healthy scratches for the Canadiens.

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