Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche struggle in 6-3 loss at Washington

WASHINGTON — Nathan MacKinnon was expected to spark the shorthanded Avalanche in his season debut on Tuesday. Instead, Colorado fell to 1-2 on the season in a game its superstar center might not have been prepared to play.

MacKinnon, who missed the Avs’ first two games while in COVID protocol, had an assist but was minus-5 in Washington’s 6-3 victory at Capital One Arena, where Capitals top-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov led the way with two goals.

MacKinnon had not skated in eight previous days while in quarantine, but he wasn’t Colorado’s only problem. The entire lineup struggled, including goalie Darcy Kuemper, who allowed multiple goals in each of the first two periods and again 39 seconds into the third when the Caps took a 5-2 lead.

“It impacted him immensely,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of MacKinnon’s eight-day quarantine. “The competitive part of the game was missing from that line tonight and Nate was part of that. They just weren’t good enough and it wasn’t just them. It was our whole team.”

Avalanche top-pair defenseman Cale Makar and top-line right winger Mikko Rantanen were each minus-5. Left winger Andre Burakovsky was minus-4 on the MacKinnon line before being moved off it.

“We have to be a lot better. We know we can all be better,” Rantanen said. “I don’t think there’s a lot to talk about. It’s not how we play.”

It was the Avs’ first game outside the Central/West divisions…

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