DENVER (AP) Valeri Nichushkin scored a tiebreaking goal late in the third period and the Colorado Avalanche beat the slumping San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Sunday night.

Nichushkin also had an assist, Mikko Rantanen scored and Nathan MacKinnon had two assists for Colorado.

The game appeared headed to overtime when the Avalanche got a delayed penalty. With an extra attacker on, Jack Johnson fed Nichushkin for a one-timer at 16:31 of the third. It was his 17th goal of the season.

“We had so many good chances, but sometimes when you can’t score you start getting nervous,” Nichushkin said. “We get a good chance and we score.”

Josh Manson added an empty-net goal at 18:53.

MacKinnon extended his home point streak to 19 games, the longest to start a season in franchise history. He matched his longest home point streak, set from Jan. 2 to March 24, and is four games shy of tying Joe Sakic for the club record.

Alexandar Georgiev faced just 11 shots in his 19th win while Sharks goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen made 30 saves. Tomas Hertl scored for San Jose, which has lost eight straight games - all in regulation.

The Avalanche are 7-2-1 since dropping five of six in early December. They could easily be riding a five-game winning streak, but they blew a 4-0 lead at Phoenix and lost in overtime Wednesday night.

Colorado defenseman Sam Girard played his first game since receiving care from the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. Girard last played Nov. 18 and entered the program on Nov. 24, citing anxiety and depression leading to alcohol abuse as the reason for seeking help.

He missed 21 games before returning to the lineup Sunday and logged 16:02 of ice time.

“You watch his game, it was solid,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “He’s missed some time - I didn’t expect perfection right away. He’s just steady, he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, so it’s another veteran guy that helps you at both ends of the rink, whether it’s penalty kill or power play. He plays everything for us.”

Sharks defenseman Mario Ferraro left in the first period with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return. San Jose played the rest of the night with only five defensemen, and coach David Quinn didn’t have an update on Ferraro after the game.

“He’s probably the heartbeat of the team, so it’s really tough to make up for what he brings to the table, both on and off the ice,” defenseman Henry Thrun said.

Rantanen gave Colorado a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 6:58 of the first, his 19th of the season. Hertl tied it at 16:53 of the second with his 13th goal, eight seconds into a Sharks power play.

“We lose our best defenseman five minutes into the game, playing a team that has a great chance to win a Stanley Cup,” Quinn said. “We didn’t have it today. We defended hard and we defended a lot.”


Sharks: Host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night.

Avalanche: Host the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.



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