Want to see how the sausage is made sometimes? OK, since this is my site and I make the rules…I had a story written that had the Vegas Golden Knights winning Game 2. It felt like it was headed that way, and I wanted to have something ready to roll soon after the final horn.
But NO, I get to write something instead, like….Avalanche victory in Game 2, 3-2 in overtime. Mikko Rantanen with the pinpoint laser of a wrist shot from the left circle, on the power play, wins it.
Colorado leads two games to none and will play Game 3 Friday night in Vegas. Vegas forward Reilly Smith put his team on the penalty kill early in the OT, a really dumb slashing penalty against Rantanen, that knocked his stick out after a faceoff.
After Nathan MacKinnon hit the post with a shot on the PP, the Avs worked it around the horn some more, with MacKinnon finding Mikko on the other side. Rantanen sized up his shot and beat Marc-Andre Fleury up high. Game over.
Eleven wins in a row for the Avs. Game 3 at T-Mobile Friday.
OK, so here’s what I was going to run if Vegas had popped in that winner in OT:
Pete DeBoer, coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, promised a better performance from his team in Game 2 against the Avalanche and he kept it. How does a team that lost by six goals in Game 1 come out and outshoot the Avs 40-23 in the first three periods, then wins it in overtime?
Because Vegas is a damn good team and wasn’t going to lay down after the Avs partied all night against them Sunday. Now, it’s the Avs’ turn to dig deep and prove they aren’t the paper champion that has bailed out from the second round the past two seasons.
Game 3 is Friday night in Vegas, in a building that will be open 100 percent, with no masks required. It’s going to be loud and it’s going to be tough for the visitors. But the Avs have to prove, eventually, that they can go in and do to Vegas what the Golden Knights did here in their gritty Game 2 win, 3-2.
One thing is for sure: the Avs are going to be in a lot of trouble in Vegas if some of their better players shrink from the moment like too many of them did in Game 2. I’m talking about guys such as J.T. Compher, Andre Burakovsky, Alex Newhook, Sampo Ranta and even others such as Joonas Donskoi and Ryan Graves.
The Avs just didn’t seem to have a full crew for this game. Not that any of the aforementioned didn’t try out there, but they just weren’t very noticeable all night. This is an Avs team that is supposed to wear you down with depth, but in this game anyway, Vegas seemed to tire out the younger, faster Avs.
Hey, it’s one game and nobody should get all panicked. But the reality is: Vegas has home-ice advantage now, in a five-game series. The Avs had the opportunities to win their 11th game in a row. But it just seemed like Vegas wanted it more.
And, they got it.
Now, it’s over to you, Colorado Avalanche, to find out just how hungry you are.
No, it’s back to you, Vegas. That’s what I meant to say all along lol.
THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Vegas went to more of a packed-in defensive system in the neutral zone in the second period, and it worked. The Avs’ forwards had trouble at times getting through the system, which is a bit of a left-wing lock kind of thing, where the third forward high tries to steer to play to one side or the other.
- I think this was the first game in which I question the use of Alex Newhook and Sampo Ranta together on a fourth line. That line wasn’t very involved, didn’t play a lot and didn’t control the puck much. Newhook got a little careless with the puck in his own zone at times, too, especially on one occasion in the second period.
- The Golden Knights hit the post twice early in the third period.
- I wouldn’t be shocked if we see Bo Byram for Conor Timmins in Game 3. Just a hunch.
- I thought the Avs had a chance to really clamp down on the Golden Knights in the first period with a couple of power plays and a 1-0 lead, but they got a little too fancy. Vegas seemed to take some life from those kills.
- Tyson Jost’s first-period goal was a beauty. He created pressure in the Vegas zone with a slick venture down the wall, then went to the middle and one-timed a shot past Fleury.
- Brandon Saad’s goal? Probably not a beauty, but it still counted. He fanned on a wrist shot coming down the left side, and that change of pace on the puck fooled Fleury.
- I thought this was a game the Avs really could have used a Nazem Kadri. The Avs had a lot of trouble in the faceoff dot, one of his specialties. J.T. Compher had an off night in most areas, as Kadri’s second-line center replacement.
- Gabe Landeskog had the tie-breaking goal on his blade with about 9:25 left, but Mikko Rantanen’s crossing pass into the crease was a bit too hard and it squirmed away.
- Grubauer made a great save on Alex Tuch to keep it a 2-2 game late. Tuch had a breakaway.
- Reilly Smith just flat out missed on an open net in the third, off a bad rebound by Grubauer, that would have made it 3-2. Smith hit the post.
- That Avs kill with 3:25 left was one for the oxygen tanks. This is something the Avs will need to address moving forward though: It just felt like Vegas’ power play was better at keeping pucks in the zone and firing shots, while the Avs had trouble setting up at times and overpassed.
- DeBoer called the Smith slash in OT a “soft call.” Naw, it was the right call. If that was a soft call, so was the Toews trip on Pietrangelo with 3:25 left. Pietrangelo mostly just skated over Toews’ skates.
- Here’s how Mikko saw the slash: “The call is if you slash the other guy’s stick out of his hands, it’s always a penalty. I’m a pretty strong guy, so I can hold onto my stick, but that was a pretty hard slash.”
- Grubauer was named the No. 1 star and I can’t argue with that. He had a couple of shaky moments in the game, but really was excellent toward the end when the Avs were just seemingly too tired to play like they can.