DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche took a chance when they drafted Nathan MacKinnon first overall last June.
The rookie is rewarding their faith with a stellar first season.
MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, Jamie McGinn had two goals and an assist, and Colorado beat the Buffalo Sabres 7-1 on Saturday.
Gabriel Landeskog also had two goals and Semyon Varlamov had 27 saves for the Avalanche, who have won three straight.
Varlamov also had his second assist of the season.
Colorado is having a bounce-back season after finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference last year.
The rebound started with earning the top pick in the draft, and the Avalanche opted for the speedy MacKinnon instead of homegrown defenseman Seth Jones.
The decision has paid off. MacKinnon has 20 goals and 40 points to lead all rookies in scoring.
“I’ve been feeling more comfortable. I think I was a little snake-bit at the beginning and could’ve score more than I did,” said the 18-year-old MacKinnon, who had his first three-point game. “Thankfully things are clicking, I’ve developed chemistry with guys on the team.”
The Avalanche were playing their final home game before going on a four-game East Coast road trip ahead of the Olympic break. They have won eight of 10 and are 35-14-5. It’s their best start to a season since 2000-01 when they won the Stanley Cup.
Marc-Andre Cliche scored his first NHL goal and Tyson Barrie also scored for the Avalanche.
Colorado continued its mastery over the Sabres. The Avalanche have won seven straight against Buffalo.
“We weren’t ready to go from the get-go,” Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. “We never laid a body on anyone. It was a very ugly game to watch.”
Stars 2, Ducks 0
In Anaheim, Dan Ellis made 26 saves against his former team in his 14th career shutout, and Trevor Daley scored in Dallas’ victory over the Ducks.
Jonas Hiller stopped 25 shots for NHL-leading Anaheim, which was shut out for the first time all season. The Ducks have lost three of five at Honda Center after opening the season 20-0-2 at home.
Flyers 2, Kings 0
In Los Angeles, Steve Mason posted his second shutout in three games with 35 saves and Wayne Simmonds scored his 100th NHL goal, leading Philadelphia over the Kings.
It was the 22nd career shutout and third this season for Mason, who stopped 33 shots in a 5-0 win against Detroit last Tuesday after getting pulled by coach Craig Berube in two of his previous three starts.
Bruins 4, Oilers 0
In Boston, David Krejci scored a second-period power-play goal and Chad Johnson made 22 saves for his second career shutout and the Bruins earned a victory over Edmonton.
Krejci’s 12th goal of the season at 2:06 of the second period was enough for Boston to win for the sixth time in its past eight games.
Coyotes 3, Penguins 1
In Glendale, Arizona, Zbynek Michalek scored against his former team, his first goal in 83 games, and Phoenix became the first Pacific Division team to beat Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh in regulation this season.
Mike Ribeiro had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes, and Radim Vrbata scored the third goal for the hosts. Michalek’s previous goal was scored on March 5, 2012, for Pittsburgh against Phoenix.
Evgeni Malkin scored for the Penguins, who entered the game 8-0-1 against Pacific Division foes.
Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 1
In Columbus, linemates Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner each had a goal and an assist in the first period, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves to lead the hosts past Florida.
Maple Leafs 6, Senators 3
In Toronto, Phil Kessel scored three goals, and the Maple Leafs beat Ottawa for their sixth straight win at home.
With 5:59 left, Tyler Bozak fed a pass to Kessel, who scored his 30th goal of the season to complete his hat trick and give the Leafs a 4-3 lead.
Kessel is second in the NHL in goals this season.
Blues 4, Predators 3 (SO)
In St. Louis, Vladimir Tarasenko scored and added an assist in regulation, and then netted the deciding goal in the shootout to lead the Blues over Nashville.
Flames 4, Wild 3 (OT)
In Calgary, Mikael Backlund scored two goals, including the winner 2:25 into overtime to give the Flames a victory over Minnesota.
Sharks 2, Blackhawks 1 (SO)
In San Jose, Joe Thornton capped the home team’s perfect shootout with a nifty move past Corey Crawford that helped the Sharks snap a three-game losing streak.
Lightning 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)
In Montreal, Nate Thompson scored twice, including the winner at 4:36 of overtime, to give Tampa Bay a victory over the Canadiens.