Crosby’s natural hat trick wasted
DENVER — Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon put on a show that made Cole Harbour proud, and it was MacKinnon who walked away with bragging rights for the Nova Scotia town.
MacKinnon had a goal and three assists, including one on Gabe Landeskog’s tiebreaking score midway through the third period, and the surging Colorado Avalanche overcame Crosby’s natural hat trick to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-3 on Wednesday night.
MacKinnon’s team won the matchup of hometown stars, but Crosby nearly stole it with his 11th career hat trick.
“It’s not easy when Sid gets going,” MacKinnon said. “He starts kind of galloping out there.”
Colorado won its sixth straight game and is 8-0-1 in its last nine.
MacKinnon, 23, and Crosby, 31, are both former No. 1 overall draft picks. They have become offseason training partners and have made TV commercials together. Those things are put aside when they face each other twice a season, but Wednesday’s game might get a second viewing when they get together.
“I’m sure this is a game we will talk about for a while,” MacKinnon said. “We don’t play each other much, so for a regular-season game this is one of the fun ones I’ve been a part of. By Sid getting a hat trick and obviously us getting a big one.”
MacKinnon had an empty-net goal with 29 seconds left, his 18th goal of the season. Samuel Girard, Erik Johnson, Colin Wilson and Carl Soderberg also scored for Colorado, and Mikko Rantanen had two assists.
The Avalanche’s top line of MacKinnon, Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, who leads the NHL in scoring with 42 points, had eight points and continues to dominate. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan didn’t hesitate when asked if the trio is the best he’s seen this season.
“Yes,” he said. “They’re not easy to contain. They’re three elite players that are all on the same line.”
Sullivan has a two-time Hart Trophy winner in Crosby, and he put on an MVP-worthy performance for the Penguins by erasing a 3-0 deficit by himself.
He struck twice in the final minute of the second period. His first goal came off his own rebound on a breakaway with 52 seconds to go, and he scored again with 10 seconds left with Colorado defenseman Patrik Nemeth off for holding. Crosby tied it at 4:43 of the third to complete his first hat trick of the season. He has 13 goals.
“Sid tried to will us a win with his effort,” Sullivan said. “I thought he was terrific. He was terrific all night long.”
Landeskog broke the tie with his 15th goal at 10:05. The Penguins pulled Tristan Jarry for an extra skater, but MacKinnon and Soderberg scored to seal it.
“We didn’t give up, so that’s a good thing,” Crosby said. “Still, when you put yourself in that position to get back in the game after coming back from three you want to at least get a point out of it.”
Girard gave Colorado a 1-0 lead with his second goal at 11:19 of the first period. Johnson scored at 5:13 of the second and Wilson made it 3-0 at 7:52.
The Penguins challenged Johnson’s goal for goaltender interference but it was upheld upon review.