Nathan MacKinnon is part of a young core that's showing signs of life in Colorado this season (Nick Wass/AP)
By Michael Blinn
It was only a matter of time before Nathan MacKinnon finally got on the board.
At 17:41 of the second period, the first-overall pick in the 2013 draft snuck into the slot and snapped a one-timer past Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth to give the Avalanche a 3-0 lead. The rookie celebrated his first NHL tally by leaping into the end boards, getting mobbed by his teammates and then giving the Avs' bench the customary glove taps.
Teammate Erik Johnson snagged the puck for MacKinnon, who figures to see plenty of ice time of as he continues to showcase the stellar hands and nose for the net that had scouts drooling as he tore up the CHL with Halifax last season.
The Avs are off to a perfect 5-0 start after the 5-1 win over the Capitals, keyed by a young core of talent headlined by MacKinnon, captain Gabe Landeskog and goalie Seymon Varlamov, who helped to victimize Washington, his former team, with 40 saves. New coach (and former Colorado goalie) Patrick Roy has brought a fire behind the bench, and the team has bought into it -- and then some -- ranking fifth in goals per game (3.6), first in team goals against (0.80) and a perfect 12-for-12 on the penalty kill.
While the Avs are rolling, the guy they could've had with the first pick, defenseman Seth Jones, potted the first goal of his NHL career on Saturday night as well.
Jones, who was rated the top overall skater in the same draft and fell to Central Division rival Nashville at No. 4, rifled a shot from the top of the circle for a power play goal that Islanders' netminder Evgeni Nabokov never saw, and might still not believe happened, if not for having to the fish the puck out of the net.
With Jones paired on the man advantage with Shea Weber, the Predators now have the second option on the blue line they've lacked since Ryan Suter bolted for Minnesota before last season. Jones' goal showed that he's not only an offensive weapon, but he also doesn't have to be the quarterback to make things happen -- something that will help his adjustment to the pro game and allow him to to learn from Weber's tutelage.
The Predators eked out a 3-2 win
over the Isles, improving to 2-3 on the season. They're averaging just 1.80 goals per game. While Nashville has never been known for it's offensive prowess, players like Mike Fisher (1-2-3), Patric Hornqvist (1-2-3), and Colin Wilson (1-1-2) need to step up their games to help goalie Pekka Rinne, whose 3.13 goals against average and .889 save percentage are among the league's worst, just five games in.