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MacKinnon and Drouin each get 3 points as Avalanche beat Wild 5-2

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, Justus Annunen made a career-high 44 saves and the Colorado Avalanche moved closer to first place with a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.

Jonathan Drouin scored twice and added an assist as the playoff-bound Avalanche bounced back from a vexing loss Monday at Columbus, last in the Eastern Conference. Second-place Colorado is three points behind idle Dallas, which leads the Central Division and Western Conference with 105 points.

“It’s fun," said Drouin, who joined the Avs as a free agent last summer. “It’s a solid hockey team with so much desperation to win a Stanley Cup, and you can feel it.”

Meanwhile, the Wild’s slim postseason chances are fading.

“Lots of times, the true colors come out to me,” Minnesota coach John Hynes said. “When things are going well, everything’s good. But when you’re in the foxhole together and the bullets are flying and you've got to pull out of adversity and you've got to band together ... I think these are the times that it does test your culture.”

Artturi Lehkonen and Mikko Rantanen also scored for the Avalanche.

Annunen thwarted chance after chance in his 16th career game. The native of Finland won a Stanley Cup with Colorado while serving as the team's backup goalie for part of the 2022 playoffs.

“Our defense and all the players were helping me out today,” Annunen said, “so they made my job easy and kept the shots pretty far away from the net.”

Vinni Lettieri and Declan Chisholm scored for Minnesota. Filip Gustavsson stopped 31 shots.

Colorado took a 2-1 lead in the first period on goals by Lehkonen and Drouin.

Drouin's goal with 7:32 left came eight seconds into a power play.

Minnesota's Kirill Kaprizov had gone off for tripping, which drew the ire of the Wild bench; teammate Joel Eriksson Ek appeared to get tripped at the same time.

Drouin added his second goal of the night 43 seconds into the second period, deflecting in MacKinnon's shot from the point to make it 3-1. Drouin said he wasn't sure if MacKinnon intentionally directed the puck toward the left winger's stick at the side of the net.

“We didn’t talk about it yet, so I don’t know if it was on purpose or not,” Drouin said. “With him, I’m thinking it’s on purpose.”

Chisholm answered with a power-play goal for Minnesota with 9:50 left in the middle period.

MacKinnon, second in the NHL in points, made it 4-2 at 6:32 of the third and Rantanen added an empty-net goal with 1:28 left.

Minnesota began the night eight points behind Los Angeles for the second Western Conference wild card. The Kings played later at last-place San Jose.

The Wild have seven games remaining.

UP NEXT

Avalanche: Play at Edmonton on Friday night.

Wild: Will host Winnipeg on Saturday.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl