Monday, June 24, 2024

Frank Vatrano’s hat trick helps Ducks stun Avalanche

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By MIKE CRANSTON The Associated Press

DENVER — Frank Vatrano scored three goals, Adam Henrique and Mason McTavish scored 24 seconds apart in the third period and the Ducks rallied from a two-goal deficit to stun Colorado, 5-3, on Thursday night and snap the Avalanche’s six-game winning streak.

Trailing 3-1, Vatrano scored his second goal with 1:23 left in the second period.

The Ducks then dominated early in the third period. Henrique tied it on a feed from Denver native Troy Terry at 9:42. And McTavish put the Ducks ahead when his shot trickled past Pavel Francouz.

The Avalanche had numerous chances late, twice hitting the post until Vatrano scored an empty-net goal with 50 seconds left. It’s his third career hat trick and first since Jan. 20, 2020, against Chicago when he played for Florida.

“It feels great,” the 28-year-old winger said. “We’re playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions, so we needed a full 60-minute effort.”

John Gibson stopped 40 shots, including several big saves in the final few minutes. It allowed the Ducks, in last place in the Pacific Division, to finish a six-game trip 3-2-1.

“It was a one-goal game and we want to win,” Gibson said. “So I’ve got to do whatever I can.”

Mikko Rantanen scored twice, Samuel Girard added a goal and an assist and Cale Makar had an assist in his return from injury, but the Avs fell to fourth in the Central Division, a point behind Minnesota.

Francouz made 27 saves.

“Too much standing around. The urgency, intensity to our game disappeared,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said of the beginning of the third period. “We still had a chance to tie the game up, but we put ourselves in a bad spot.”

Makar had missed four games with an upper-body injury. His return coincided with Valeri Nichushkin (upper body) sitting out.

“We’ve got to take a hard look in the mirror,” Rantanen said. “What happened in the third, it can’t happen if we want to be successful.”

Nathan MacKinnon fed Girard 1:13 into the second period for his 40th assist to put the Avs ahead 2-1. Then with Colorado on the power play after Gibson was called for intentionally dislodging the net, Rantanen rocketed a one-timer for his 34th goal.

It took the Avs, who had not trailed during their win streak, just 3:56 to go ahead when Rantanen knocked Makar’s rebound into an open net. It was Makar’s 31st assist.

Despite being outshot 18-7 in the first, Vatrano tied it for the Ducks midway through the period when he converted his own fat rebound.

Vatrano scored again to give his team momentum entering the third. His hat trick gave him five goals in five games.

“It’s big,” Vatrano said of the comeback, “especially against them in their building. They’re a great team.”

NIETO’S BACK

Matt Nieto received loud cheers when introduced, then skated on Colorado’s fourth line a day after he was reacquired in a trade with San Jose.

“It’s been a whirlwind of a day,” Nieto said in a between-periods TV interview, “but just to have the comfort level and familiarity is a good thing.”

Nieto had 34 goals and 47 assists in 251 games over three-plus seasons in Colorado through the 2019-20 season.

“He fits our system. He’s a skater, a worker, a responsible checker,” Coach Jared Bednar said. “He’s a good addition.”

NOTES

The Ducks were without defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (lower body), while defenseman John Klingberg (illness) returned from a one-game absence. … Colorado defenseman Ryan Merkley, also acquired from the Sharks, was assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate. … Denis Malgin returned from injury and assisted on Rantanen’s second goal. … Bednar referred to Nichushkin as day-to-day.

UP NEXT

The Ducks host Arizona on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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