Healthy Karlsson gives Sharks optimism heading into Game 3

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              Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon (29) shoots to score a goal against San Jose Sharks' Erik Karlsson (65) in the third period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Sunday, April 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Erik Karlsson took the puck behind his own net and went on the type of end-to-end rush that has made him one of the NHL’s most dynamic defensemen.

Even though Karlsson’s rush didn’t lead to a goal and came in San Jose’s 4-3 loss in Game 2 to Colorado, it encouraged the Sharks that Karlsson appears to be healthy once again.

“It’s like a fine wine getting better and better every game,” defensive partner Brenden Dillon said Monday. “We know how good of a player he is and how much he impacts a game. It’s been fun to play with him.”

Despite being hampered earlier in the playoffs by a groin injury that sidelined him for 27 of 32 games in the second half of the season, Karlsson is tied for the league lead with 10 assists this postseason thanks to his vision and passing ability.

His skating and defense will be needed when the series shifts to Colorado for Game 3 on Tuesday night (10 p.m. EDT, NBCSN) after the teams split the first two games.

The Avalanche took control in Game 2 when coach Jared Bednar made a change in the second period to reunite Mikko Rantanen on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.

The trio helped create two goals in the second period that gave Colorado a 2-1 lead and helped lead to the win.

“The line did our job and our job is getting the team going offensively,” Landeskog said. “Some nights you have it, some nights you don’t. But playoff time you got to try and find it every night and I thought we got deep and were able to get rewarded for a lot of our hard work.”

The boost from the top three scorers could be expected for the Avalanche. But they also got a big lift from a pair of 20-year-old defensemen as Cale Makar teamed with Samuel Girard.

Makar, the Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player, has played just five NHL games since finishing up at the Frozen Four for UMass. Girard has a bit more experience with 150 regular-season games the past two seasons.

Game 2 was their first time playing with each other as Makar moved into the lineup when Girard got hurt last round. They look extremely comfortable in their role.

“Yes, we are 20. We just have to play our game,” Girard said. “I know that Cale is able to play here. I know I’m able to. We just need to play our game. We need to bring some offense and make sure we play good offensively as well.”