NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Nathan MacKinnon had three goals and an assist as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 on Friday night to win the Central Division title.
Devon Toews also scored and had an assist and Alexandar Georgiev made 18 saves for Colorado, which finished a point ahead of Dallas in the division. Mikko Rantanen had two assists.
Kiefer Sherwood scored twice, Luke Evangelista added one and Kevin Lankinen made 30 saves for the Predators.
With 1:42 remaining in the third, MacKinnon skated into the Nashville zone on the right side before snapping a wrist shot by Lankinen. His third goal was his 42nd of the season, setting a career high. The hat trick was his first of the season and fourth of his career.
The reigning Stanley Cup-winning Avalanche will begin their championship defense against Seattle in the first round of the playoffs. They will do so without captain Gabriel Landeskog, who announced Thursday that the knee injury that has sidelined him for the entire regular season will keep him out for the playoffs as well.
In a first period where Colorado outshot Nashville 18-4, MacKinnon assisted on Toews’ goal just 28 seconds after the opening faceoff. MacKinnon then scored twice, with his second coming with 6:46 left in the first when he slipped a backhand past Lankinen after splitting a pair of Predators defenders in the slot.
Nashville drew even at 7:08 of the second on a power-play goal from Sherwood. It was his second goal of the game and the first two-goal game of his career. Sherwood played parts of the last two seasons with Colorado.
Nashville was eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday night when Winnipeg clinched the Western Conference’s final playoff berth with a victory over Minnesota. The Predators had qualified for the playoffs the last eight seasons, tied with Washington for the second-longest active streaks, trailing just Pittsburgh’s 16. All three teams failed to qualify for this season’s playoffs.
Nashville successfully killed all four Avalanche power plays in the game. The Predators did not yield a power-play goal in their last six games, going 17 for 17 on the penalty-kill in the process.
Friday was the final game in the career of Predators general manager David Poile. Just prior to the NHL trade deadline, Poile, the winningest regular season general manager in NHL history, announced that he was retiring from the position. Poile, who has been Nashville’s GM since the franchise has been existence, will be replaced by Barry Trotz, the team’s first head coach.
Avalanche: Host Seattle in Game 1 of the first round on Tuesday night.