VEGAS — For a moment there, it looked like the Colorado Avalanche would have a chance to sweep the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. Despite being beaten like Rocky Balboa before an epic rematch, the Avalanche had a 2-1 lead with less than six minutes to go. The 17,504 capacity crowd was relentless, but Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer was spectacular.
Then 45 seconds in the waning minutes of the third period ripped victory from the Avs and extended the series to at least five, if not beyond. Vegas scored pair of goals late in the third period for a 3-2 win in Game 3 at T-Mobile Arena.
With six minutes remaining and trailing 2-1, Vegas winger Jonathan Marchessault got behind the Avalanche defense for a breakaway after Cale Makar mishandled the puck at the offensive blue line.
Marchessault couldn’t beat Grubauer on the front side, so he banked his second attempt off Grubauer from the backside, which sent the Vegas 100% capacity crowd into a tizzy.
Before the 17,504 fans calmed down, Max Pacioretty deflected Nic Holden’s shot past a surprised Gurbauer. Victory to defeat. A 3-0 series lead to a 2-1 lead with all momentum to Vegas.
The Avalanche 11 game winning streak came to a crashing end. Vegas badly outplayed the Colorado Avalanche again, but this time the Avs could not reclaim an improbable win as they did with their Game 2 OT win.
Game 4 is Sunday afternoon. The Avalanche may want to show up.
The first period was not kind to the Avalanche unless you consider the scoreboard. Despite being outshot 14-3, and being dominated far worse than the shot clock would indicate, the Avalanche and Vegas were scoreless after the first period.
A good chunk of the Vegas goose egg was Vezina trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer, who was a brick wall in the first period. Grubauer helped the Avs weather a pair of first-period Vegas power plays.
And here’s the jaw-dropper stat: Including the first period, Vegas outshot the Colorado Avalanche 45-15 over the last four regulation period. The highlight of the period for Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was dishing a few whacks with the paddle. He was otherwise unchallenged.
It looked like Vegas was ready to run away and hide inside the fortress, but the Avs quick-strike capability kept them in the game.
Grubauer’s Hoover-sized dam let some water spill five minutes into the second period. Alec Martinez’s shot was blocked by both Vegas forward William Karlsson and Avs defenseman Sam Girard. Karlsson grabbed the loose puck out of traffic, spun around Girard and Grubauer, and deposited it into a yawning cage. 1-0.
However, 89 seconds later, the Avalanche fourth line evened the game. Head coach Jared Bednar inserted Carl Soderberg, a healthy scratch in Games 1 and 2, back into the lineup. Soderberg was on the wrong end of the puck in the first period until the Avalanche fourth line created offense from defense. A quick three-on-two led to a big Fleury rebound, and Soderberg happily cleaned up the trash. 1-1.
Despite Vegas’ domination, the Avs again kept the game even. The goal by Soderberg stabilized the game, but Colorado still lacked any momentum or push in the first 40 minutes. Nathan MacKinnon led the Avs with three shots, but two were their only power play.
Max Pacioretty had five shots in the first 40 minutes, including a clean breakaway from the red line, but Grubauer stuffed him, too.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar blendered the lines to start the third period. Andre Burakovsky assumed a spot on the top line with MacKinnon and Rantanen. Landeskog dropped to the second line with Valeri Nichushkin.
We didn’t have to type Nichushkin’s name, but we figured we should at least try at some point in the series.
The Avalanche finally found part of their stride again after the Rantanen goal. The game opened up. The Avs looked like themselves for a few minutes after Rantanen’s goal. The misfiring passes began to connect. Their speed advantage was again noticeable as the teams began trading chances.
But it washed away in 45 seconds.
Vegas outshot the Avalanche 43-20. Grubauer stopped 40 of 43. Marc-Andre Fleury only had to make 18 saves in the Game 3 win.