By Steve Overbey
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Colorado Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog didn’t hesitate in admitting that playing on a line centered by standout Nathan MacKinnon is a blast.
“It’s definitely one of the best jobs in hockey,” Landeskog said.
Colorado’s top line of MacKinnon, Landeskog and winger Mikko Rantanen each had a goal and assist in helping the Avalanche to a 5-2 series-clinching win over St. Louis on Sunday.
The trio combined for nine goals and 15 assists and dominated the series as Colorado posted a 20-7 advantage in goals and swept the Blues in four-games in the West Division matchup.
MacKinnon led the way with six goals and three assists on 16 shots. Landeskog (2 goals, six assists) and Rantanen (1 goal, six assists) were not far behind.
The red-hot MacKinnon has 63 points in 44 career playoff games.
“Both (MacKinnon) and Mikko are very highly skilled and among the top talents in the league,” Landeskog said. “Not only that, but they work really hard. We talk about things all the time. We’re trying to constantly work on our game and study each other and learn from each other.”
That formula works.
MacKinnon had five goals and two assists through the first games of the opening-round series. He was limited to one point in Game 3.
The three bounced back in a big way with a combined six points on Sunday.
The Avalanche made quick work of the Blues and trailed for only 7:12 over the four games.
Landeskog broke a 1-1 tie by deflecting in a shot from Samuel Girard in the second period of Game 4. It came in the middle of a three-goal blitz that seemed to take the wind out of the Blues.
Colorado coach Jared Bednar said dispatching St. Louis in quick fashion has several advantages heading into the West Division final against either Vegas or Minnesota.
“It gives us some extra time to prepare,” Bednar said. “To be able to get the rest that we need, it’s a positive.”
The Avalanche are looking to make amends for their second-round playoff exit last season. That group had high hopes before losing to Dallas in seven games.
“Every playoff series that you get eliminated, your hunger and your want just goes up that much higher,” Landeskog said. “We’re just that much hungrier for it this year. You realize that you only have so many chances. You want to make sure you do everything you can to take care of those opportunities
Rantanen agreed, “We (thought) we’d be able to win last year, but we didn’t get it done. Everybody knows what we have to do. It’s a good feeling in the room.”