DENVER — Nathan MacKinnon dropped the gloves to stick up for a teammate who took a big check.
Admirable, his coach said. Understandable, too.
"But I would advise him not to be doing that the rest of the year," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said of the team’s top scorer. "He’s such a big part of our club that there’s too much at risk there."
No harm done.
Blake Comeau and Carl Soderberg each had a goal and an assist in a first-period burst, goaltender Jonathan Bernier won his ninth straight home game but left in the third period with a sore neck and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Arizona Coyotes 5-2 on Saturday.
The speedy MacKinnon fired up the crowd — and his teammates — in the first period when he went after Arizona’s Jordan Martinook, who knocked Mikko Rantanen to the ice with a hit.
"I just saw Mikko get crushed and I just reacted," explained MacKinnon, who along with Martinook drew a penalty for fighting.
This advice from his coach: Be careful.
"He’s a competitive guy, a highly competitive guy and he didn’t like what he saw so he does that," Bednar said. "You’re just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best."
His actions drew a measure of respect from Martinook.
"He’s not just a good player — he sticks up for his teammates," Martinook said.
Colorado got off to a flying start as Colorado had three goals in the opening 4:22 to take a 3-1 advantage. The Avalanche rode the torrid start to another win at the Pepsi Center, where they’ve gone 14-1-1 since Dec. 29.
Tyson Jost and Rantanen scored in the third to seal the win and help Colorado snap a streak of three straight overtime losses. The team remains in the thick of the playoff chase a season after finishing last in the league.
But this was cause for alarm: Bernier was replaced by Semyon Varlamov midway through the third. It stemmed from Bernier taking a shot flush in the mask during the second period. He’s been out with a concussion since leaving the game on Feb. 16 at Winnipeg.
"Kind of rung his bell a little bit there," Bednar explained. "Whether he got a headache or anything like that, I don’t know."
Still, Bernier stopped 22 shots to record the victory and match the longest home win streak in franchise history, which was set by Dan Bouchard in 1983-84 when the team was in Quebec.
Varlamov turned back four shots in relief.
Christian Dvorak and Richard Panik added goals for Arizona, a surging team that’s gone 9-3-2 in over its last 14 games.
Panik’s goal late in the second period cut the score to 3-2. The Coyotes were caught with too many men on the ice in the third and Jost batted in a puck for a power-play goal. Just 1:55 later, Rantanen added another to make it 5-2.
Things turned testy soon after, with Sven Andrighetto and Oliver Ekman-Larsson pushing each other and several others joining in. Brendan Perlini and Nikita Zadorov were given 10-minute misconduct penalties.
Ekman-Larsson, who was whistled for a double-minor for slashing and cross-checking on the play, was later fined $5,000 — the maximum under the collective bargaining agreement — for slashing Andrighetto.
"For the most part, we had some guys that really hustled and worked hard," Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. "We had three or four or five guys passengers tonight. We don’t have the team to have passengers."
NOTES: Tocchet had no update on Arizona F Derek Stepan after he limped off the ice in the third period after blocking a shot by Zadorov. Earlier in the period, F Laurent Dauphin was hit in the left knee by a Zadorov shot. … Arizona goaltender Darcy Kuemper stopped 26 shots with starter Antti Raanta scratched due to a lower-body injury. … MacKinnon had two assists to increase his league lead in home scoring to 59 points. … According to the Avs, the combined four goals in the opening 4:22 were the fastest four goals to begin an NHL game since Feb. 26, 1997, when Philadelphia beat Ottawa 8-5. …
Coyotes: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.
Avalanche: Begin a two-game trip Tuesday in Minnesota.