Avalanche host Devils, seek rare win streak

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche got to do something they haven't experienced many times this season -- seal a home win with an empty-net goal.

Nathan MacKinnon's clincher wrapped up a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, only the ninth win at Pepsi Center this season for the Avalanche. Now they are going for another rarity -- a winning streak when they host the struggling New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

Colorado (18-44-3) has an NHL-low 126 goals, which translates to 1.94 per game. The three goals scored Tuesday marked the first time the team had more than two in five games. It led to a victory, and with two games left in this four-game homestand the Avalanche want to put together a real winning streak.

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"We haven't done it nearly enough this year and our record shows it," said defenseman Tyson Barrie, who had a goal and two assists in the win. "We're a proud group in here and we want to play these last 17 games for our teammates, our fans and for ourselves."

New Jersey (25-29-12) might be the perfect team for Colorado to try to win back-to-back games for only the fourth time this season. The Devils have their scoring issues, too, and rank just ahead of the Avalanche in total goals with 147.

New Jersey is on an eight-game losing streak (0-6-2), with three of those being shutouts, including a 2-0 loss to Columbus on Tuesday. What little hope the Devils had of making a playoff run has all but disappeared with the lack of scoring.

"Just a little bit of touch around the net, just a little bit of luck," forward Taylor Hall told reporters after the loss in Columbus. "It's a long season; these things even themselves out. We had a game here last time around where we got five goals, and that's unlike (Sergei) Bobrovsky to give that up. So it evens out throughout the season, so we're looking to put the odds in our favor as the season goes on here."

New Jersey's minus-42 goal differential is 28th in the league but is more than double Colorado's minus-89. The Devils stayed in games when they can't score, but it's getting frustrating that they can't put the puck in the net.

"We're there, we're just not finding the back of the net right now," forward Travis Zajac told reporters Tuesday night. "I think if we continue to get these types of chances and play in the offensive zone, you'll start to see them go in."

They might have more opportunities against the Avalanche, who have also allowed a league-high 215 goals. Colorado's defense got a boost with the return of Erik Johnson from a broken leg, but the loss of young Nikita Zadorov just as he was starting to play well further depleted the crew.

Before holding the Hurricanes to one goal, the Avalanche were allowing 3.7 in their previous six games, including a six-goal meltdown in Winnipeg on Saturday night.

With the trade deadline passed and the core group sticking around until at least the end of the regular season, the goal is to build momentum for next season. That's true for Johnson, who missed 36 games before returning Feb. 25.

"Anytime you lose and you're not even getting a sniff of the playoffs, it's frustrating," Johnson told HockeyBuzz.com. "I'll be 29 in two weeks and you don't have many cracks at the can left the older you get, so I want to win now. It's obviously not going to happen this year. I hope it happens next year."