Avalanche dominated but beat the Golden Knights in Game 2
Nathan MacKinnon hasn’t scored a point in three periods. Not more than Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog or Makar wedge. The Colorado Avalanche were outscored 40-23, including a combined 31-12 in the second and third periods.
So the Vegas Golden Knights won, right?
The Avalanche won, anyway.
They won 3-2 in overtime in Denver on Wednesday and took a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup second round, thanks to a power play goal from Rantanen at 2:07 into overtime, 39 saves by Philipp grubauer and a little help from Grubauer’s goalposts.
That should relate to the Golden Knights, who were much better than they were in a 7-1 loss in Game 1 but are expected to be even better in Game 3 in Las Vegas on Friday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
And that should scare the rest of the NHL, like no one is already scared.
The Avalanche are on a six-game winning streak to open the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They can dominate you, as they showed by winning each of their first five games by three or more goals, and they can take one out as well, as they showed on Wednesday.
“If I look at the two games we played [against Vegas], the first one where we played really well and then it’s not our best game, but we always find a way, ”said Rantanen. “That’s what we’ve been doing all year. Sometimes we didn’t feel it, and [Grubauer has] played awesome and steal some wins for us like today. But that’s what you need if you want to win the Cup. “
To appreciate the depth of this team, consider that when Brandon saad gave Colorado a 1-0 lead in the first period, he extended his streak in a streak to five games. The Avalanche have people like MacKinnon, Rantanen, Landeskog, and Makar, and they still have a forward who won the Stanley Cup twice, with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, and can produce like that.
Also consider that Colorado had four power plays in the first period, and it wasn’t the first unit but the second that conceded to make it 2-1. Before Tyson jost scored his second of the playoffs. Again, it’s depth.
“I enjoyed our first period,” said coach Jared Bednar. “We were skating, taking penalties, winning a lot of races, winning a lot of puck battles. And in the last 40 minutes, we haven’t done that.
The Golden Knights took over in the second and third. They didn’t give the Avalanche offensive stars time and space. They blocked the shots. They won battles and generated scoring chances.
But they never took the lead thanks to Grubauer and his goal posts.
Grubauer, finalist for the Vézina Trophy this season, got a piece Jonathan marchessault shot at the end of the second, just enough for the puck to come out of the post.
At the start of the third, Reilly smith hit a post, then Grubauer stopped a Max Pacioretty chance of precipitation. Later in the third, Grubauer stopped Alex tuch all alone in front.
Video: VGK @ COL, Gm2: Grubauer denies Tuch with a safe glove
Finally, during a power play in Vegas at the end of the third, Smith hit a post. Grubauer got his glove on another shot from Marchessault and absorbed a point shot in traffic to keep the game tied.
“He bailed us out today,” Rantanen said. “I think he had a very, very good game, and he kept us in the game. He was basically the reason we came to OT.… [Grubauer] was awesome and for sure the best player in the game. “
The winning goal could have summed up the power of Colorado and the predicament in Vegas.
Smith received a penalty in the offensive zone when he cut Rantanen’s stick with his hands on a face-off. Not a good penalty to take in this situation. Not a good penalty to take against this team in particular.
The Golden Knights tried to keep the puck away from shorthanded MacKinnon, as they tried in every situation all night. They tried to cut Makar’s passing lane at MacKinnon’s point on the left flank. Good idea. MacKinnon has eight goals in his first five playoff games.
But ultimately, Makar handed the puck to MacKinnon, who moved away from the Golden Knights forward. Guillaume Karlsson to create space, I found a seam and pulled a cross pass to the right circle.
Rantanen took the pass and shot the puck in front Marc-André Fleury, and that was it.
Video: VGK @ COL, Gm2: Rantanen PPG rifle at home in overtime
If you’re the Golden Knights, you negate the unbalanced Game 1 loss due to fatigue after a seven-game streak against the Minnesota Wild in the first round and a day off. Remember you played better in Game 2, haven’t lost a home game yet, beat the Avalanche 4-4-0 in the regular season and tied them on points (82), losing the Presidents’ Trophy against the tiebreaker of the regulatory victories (35-30).
If you are the Avalanche, you feel good knowing that you can win without your “A” match.
“It wasn’t our best game, we know that,” Rantanen said. “But that’s what we need. We have to find a way even when we’re not playing our best.”