How’s everybody’s heart rate? A little elevated? Yeah, playoff hockey can do that. So can the play of Nathan MacKinnon.
MacKinnon had the hat trick in leading the Avalanche to a 6-3 win, a game that was a lot closer than that score would indicate. It was 4-3 with 4:20 left and the Blues were not going away, despite starting out in a 3-0 hole. Brandon Saad and MacKinnon scored empty-netters, though, to prevent everyone from grabbing their heart medicine.
“We got the result we wanted and that’s all that matters in the playoffs,” said MacKinnon, who has five goals in the first two games. “But in Game 3, we’re going to have to be better than that.”
This one truly looked over at the 3:14 mark of the second period, when Joonas Donskoi scored his second goal of the game, a tip of MacKinnon’s shot from the point on the power play. It was 3-0 and the Avs were just dominating every aspect of the hockey game.
“And then we stopped working, stopped checking,” coach Jared Bednar said. “We gave them some life again.”
The game started to take an ominous turn midway through the third, when Nazem Kadri was whistled for a 5-minute major for a big hit on Blues veteran D-man Justin Faulk, a hit that appeared to be to the head from the blind side. Do I think it will be a suspension for Kadri? Yeah. I’m going to bet it’s a couple games at least, but the situation is exacerbated by Kadri’s repeat offender status; he’s been suspended twice before in the playoffs, both times with Toronto.
“I just saw it on the replay on the teleprompter on the ice. They called it a 5-minute major and I’m sure the league will take a look at that,” Bednar said. “But who knows.”
Let’s let to some THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Gabe Landeskog laid a big hit on Ryan O’Reilly on the first shift of the game, which led to a turnover and a Donskoi putback goal after Ryan Graves blasted a shot from the point. “That kind of set the tone,” Bednar said.
- The Blues showed a lot of character coming back like they did. They were outshot big in the first period, but the shots finished 35 apiece.
- If Faulk misses some time, that’s going to thin out a Blues defense that already looks thin.
- Said Donskoi: “I felt confident we would hold the lead.” But, he added, “Not our best hockey second half of the game. We have to get better.”
- MacKinnon becomes the first Avs player with a hat trick in the postseason since Valeri Kamensky on April 24, 1997 vs Chicago (Game 5 of WCQF) … 10th hat trick in franchise playoff history and 4th since relocating to Denver.
- O’Reilly was on the ice for all six Avs goals.
- Said Blues coach Craig Berube on the Kadri hit: “The league will look at those hits and they’ll do what they have to do.”
- O’Reilly was more outspoken about the hit, telling St. Louis reporters on Zoom: “That’s a very dangerous hit. It’s got to be a suspension. It’s dangerous. He’s a repeat offender. That’s completely uncalled for. That’s awful to see.”
- Who do I think would step in for Kadri as a centerman? Probably Carl Soderberg. I mean, Alex Newhook could move to that spot, but I doubt it.
- Brayden Schenn also took a verbal shot at Kadri: “The guy can’t control himself. In the playoffs he’s a repeat offender, bad hits. He’s got a guy in a vulnerable position and picks nothing but the head. We need to focus on Games 3-4 and the league will take care of those guys’ hits.”
- Pretty rich coming from Schenn, right?
- The Blues shouldn’t get too self-righteous about anything. One of their guys, Sammy Blais, was suspended a couple games this year for a dirty hit to the head of Devon Toews. Robert Bortuzzo got four games for a dirty hit two years ago. Yeah, Kadri will get suspended and deserves it, but settle down with the sanctimoniousness, Blues.
- I thought MacKinnon got away with one when he appeared to interfere with Ivan Barbashev in the first period – then Barbashev was called for hooking MacKinnon right after.
- The Blues also lost Bortuzzo in the game to an apparent head injury.
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