DENVER (AP) — Valeri Nichushkin’s only shot of the game gave Colorado the lead in the first minute. Philipp Grubauer made it stand up for the last 59.
“First shot, first goal, we keep working and don’t look back,” Grubauer said.
It was just the type of performance the scuffling Avalanche needed.
Grubauer made 27 saves for his first shutout of the season and Colorado got goals from four different players in a 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
It was Grubauer’s third shutout since joining the Avalanche in the summer of 2018 and his first since March 17, 2019, against New Jersey. Grubauer now has two shutouts in six games against San Jose.
“This game was the most complete I’ve seen,” Grubauer said. “We have to make sure we get consistency and move on.”
Cale Makar added a goal in the final seconds of the first period, and Ryan Graves and Matt Calvert also scored for Colorado. The Avalanche ended a four-game regular-season losing streak against the Sharks.
“We didn’t skate tonight and they are a skating team,” San Jose forward Evander Kane said. “And if you’re not ready to skate it’s going to be tough to beat these guys, because they like to break out quick and get the puck in their forwards’ hands.”
Colorado was 0-2-2 in its previous four games, squandering a third-period lead in the last two and losing in overtime.
“It’s tough losing so many different ways,” Makar said. “Wins right now matter but it’s the next half that’s going to propel us into the playoffs.”
These teams met in the second round of the 2019 playoffs, with San Jose winning in seven games. Grubauer had a 32-save shutout in Game 4 of that series.
The Sharks haven’t been able to duplicate their success from last season, when they came within a couple of games of reaching the Stanley Cup Final. San Jose coach Peter DeBoer was fired Dec. 11 after a 15-16-2 start and interim coach Bob Boughner has gone 6-8-2 since.
San Jose has lost two in a row after a modest two-game winning streak.
“It was another game where it wasn’t a very good start,” Boughner said. “We gave up a goal early, we got burned on the outside. You give one up in the first two minutes, you give one up in the last 10 seconds. That’s a recipe for disaster against a team like this.”
Thursday’s game wasn’t as close as the playoff series after Nichushkin beat goalie Martin Jones just 45 seconds into the game. Makar gave Colorado a two-goal lead when his slap shot off a faceoff win by Nazem Kadri got by Jones with 2.8 seconds left in the first. It was the rookie defenseman’s 10th of the season.
“That was too bad, an unlucky bounce there,” Jones said. “It put us in a tough spot, but we weren’t out of the game by any means. We could have come out and had a strong second. We just didn’t.”
Graves made it 3-0 when he scored off another faceoff win at 9:59 of the second, and 2:43 later Calvert scored a short-handed goal to give Colorado a four-goal lead with his 12th of the season.
The Sharks managed just eight shots in the third period and hit one post late but couldn’t get one past Grubauer.
“Full team effort,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “We got to the net, we shot the puck with opportunity, defended hard. Now we have to repeat it.”
NOTES: Sharks C Joe Thornton tied Larry Murphy for 10th place in games played with 1,615. Thornton is three points shy of 1,500 for his career. … Colorado RW Joonas Donskoi (concussion protocol) missed his third straight game. … San Jose LW Patrick Marleau remains a point shy of 1,100 with the team. … The Avalanche have two games left before an 11-day break.
Sharks: At the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
Avalanche: Host the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
By MICHAEL KELLY, Associated Press
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