NHL

Avalanche ride Mikko Rantanen, Philipp Grubauer in 2-0 victory over Kings

From blocking shots defensively to passing the puck when you’re in a guaranteed position to score, the Avalanche played unselfish hockey Friday night.

Mikko Rantanen scored his team-leading 13th goal and goalie Philipp Grubauer produced his career-high fourth shutout of the season as the Avalanche again dominated at Ball Arena but was forced to pull out another close contest.

The Avs outshot the Los Angeles Kings 46-18 but only mustered one goal in the first 58 minutes in a 2-0 victory.

Nathan MacKinnon scored an empty-net goal in the final minutes, with Rantanen unselfishly feeding the puck to MacKinnon with no defenders in front of them.

“When you get a breakaway on an empty net you’re always looking around, first of all, to see if there’s nobody back-checking on you and then if you have teammates with you,” Rantanen said. “It’s a pretty easy decision there to just give it to Nate.”

“It’s an awareness of our guys on the ice,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said Rantanen’s decision to pass the puck. “Mac has been creating a lot of chances in the last couple games since he’s been back in the lineup. He’s been snake-bitten a little bit and doesn’t seem to have the puck luck. I think getting on the board with a smile on his face is always a good thing and Mikko recognizes that and they both get their points out of it.”

Colorado, which outshot Arizona 35-14 on Wednesday but needed an overtime goal to win 2-1, improved to 13-3-1 when scoring first and 3-1-1 on its club-record, nine-game homestand.

“I think you only win if you defend the right way, so I think we’ve been doing a great job lately, and we have to stick with it,” Grubauer said. “Great job by everybody.”

Rantanen finally got the Avalanche a much-deserved first goal at 9:18 of the second frame to cap a long possession period in the offensive zone. Rantanen took a drop pass from defenseman Devon Toews and used a long wrist shot through traffic to beat goalie Cal Petersen (45 saves).

The Avs were again highly stingy defensively, allowing just seven shots in the first period and six in the second. They held their opponent to less than 30 shots for the 15th consecutive game, breaking the club record they shared with the 2000-01 Stanley Cup-winning team for 48 hours since limiting the Arizona Coyotes to just 14 shots in Wednesday’s 2-1 overtime victory.

The Avalanche has not allowed an opponent to reach 30 shots since Jan. 31 in an overtime loss at Minnesota. And Colorado hasn’t allowed 20 shots in each of its last three games.

Grubauer made his 21st start in the Avs’ 25th game. He is Colorado’s first goalie to start in at least 20 of the team’s first 25 games since Semyon Varlamov in 2012-13. Varlamov, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2013, also started 21 of the first 25 games that season.

Grubauer entered the game tied for second in wins (13), and among those with at least 15 games, he ranked fourth in goals-against average (2.05) and seventh in save percentage (.917). He improved on those numbers Friday.

“It’s everybody. It’s not just the defensemen,” Grubauer said. “It takes all the forwards, too, to work back and do the right thing, tracking back. It starts in the offensive zone, right? We don’t want to give up too many odd-man rushes so everybody’s got to be aware of who is on the ice and don’t get beat towards our net.”

The Avalanche and Kings conclude their two-game set Sunday on national television (NBCSN). Game time has been moved from 5 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Footnotes. Avalanche forward J.T. Compher and defensemen Cale Makar, Bo Byram, Dennis Gilbert and Conor Timmins remain out with injuries. Compher, Byram and Gilbert skated in red non-contact jerseys with the team Friday morning and Makar skated on his own. Defenseman Erik Johnson and goalie Pavel Francouz remain on long-term injured reserve. … MacKinnon recorded a shot in his club-record 241st consecutive game, the NHL’s longest current streak. … Avs defenseman Dan Renouf, known for his fighting in minor-league circles, fought the Kings’ Matt Luff after Rantanen’s goal in his first NHL bout. It was a draw. … Colorado Springs native Tom Chmielewski worked the game as one of the referees.

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