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Avalanche Clinch Playoff Spot With Dramatic 4-3 Overtime Win; Take Over First in Central

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It certainly wasn’t pretty for the Colorado Avalanche, but it won’t always be. And if an ugly win puts you in first place in your division, do you really care?

Absolutely not.

The Avalanche recovered from blowing a two goal lead in the third period, beating the San Jose Sharks in overtime by a score of 4-3. With the win, the Avalanche clinched a playoff spot for the sixth consecutive year, and moved into first place in the Central Division. They hold the tiebreakers over Minnesota and Dallas due to points percentage, despite all three teams having the same point total.

Nathan MacKinnon led the way with two goals and an assist. Mikko Rantanen finished the game with a whopping 17 shot attempts, but was unable to score his 50th goal of the year.

First Period

The Sharks came out with some jump, but the skill difference between the two teams quickly became apparent, even with the Avalanche playing without Cale Makar.

Just a few minutes into the game, noted goal scorer Jack Johnson got things started.

Sometimes, just letting the puck rip pays off. Johnson fired a one-timer with no Avalanche players near the net. The shot bounced off the Sharks defenseman and into the back of the net, giving the Avalanche the 1-0 lead. It was the second goal in four games for Johnson. He had previously gone 159 games without a goal.

Nearly two minutes later, Mikko Rantanen came very close to scoring his 50th goal, as he was left all alone in front, but hit the post with his shot. The Avalanche kept the puck in the zone, and it eventually came to Nathan MacKinnon. The star center sent a spinning backhand towards the net, and Evan Rodrigues was there to pick up the rebound, making it 2-0. With an assist on the goal, Rantanen set a career high with his 93rd point of the season.

The Avalanche came close to adding to the lead late in the third, but were unable to find a third marker. Rantanen had a few more good looks, and Ben Meyers had some good chances in front, but neither could beat Kahkonen. They carried that two goal lead into the second period.

Second Period

After controlling everything in the first period, the Avalanche were a little sloppy to start the second. Alexandar Georgiev kept the Sharks off the board with a massive toe save, where he stretched about as much as he possibly could to stop Zetterlund from getting on the scoresheet.

The Sharks did find a way to beat Georgiev soon after. After a bad pinch by Devon Toews in the offensive zone, Kevin Labanc carried the puck all the way up the ice. He used Erik Karlsson as a decoy on the other side, and beat Georgiev with a great shot over his left shoulder.

The Avalanche had a few chances on the powerplay, but were unable to to beat Kahkonen. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though. The second powerplay brought tons of chances for the Avalanche, but their shooting was just a little off.

Not long after that powerplay, MacKinnon got one step closer to breaking the 100 point barrier. J.T. Compher won an offensive zone face-off, and the Avalanche went to work. Toews sent it to Rantanen on the wall, and the big Finn hit MacKinnon for a one-timer, which trickled past Kahkonen and gave the Avalanche the 3-1 lead.

The Avalanche were now just one solid period away from punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the Sharks decided to make a game of it.

Third Period

The Avalanche spent a large portion of the third period focused on getting Mikko Rantanen that milestone goal. That led to a little bit over over-passing of the puck on their end. To his credit, Kahkonen kept the Sharks in the game, stopping everything the Avalanche threw his way in the third.

Kurtis MacDermid, the defenseman chosen to replace Makar in the lineup, took an offensive zone penalty five minutes into the period, giving the Sharks an opening. They took advantage, as Jacob Peterson was (somehow) left all alone in front, one-timing a pass over Georgiev, cutting the Avalanche lead to one.

And 81 seconds later, they tied it up.

After an extended shift in the offensive zone, Bowen Byram was exhausted, and got beat to a puck in the defensive zone. Noah Gregor beat him around the net, but Georgiev stopped his backhand attempt. Labanc won his battle with Girard in front of the net, turned, and sent a shot over Georgiev’s glove. In the blink of an eye, the game was tied.

It stayed that way until the buzzer sounded, as the two teams needed more time to settle the game.

With the point, the Avalanche clinched a playoff spot for the sixth consecutive year. But if they want to win the Central Division, they needed more than just one point.

Overtime

The extra period was wild. The Sharks, having nothing to really play for, didn’t hold back, and had plenty of chances to win the game.

Their best opportunity came just before the Avalanche won it, as Labanc and Jacob MacDonald came down on a 2-on-0 against Georgiev. The Bulgarian goaltender read the play perfectly, realizing MacDonald was going to send it back to Labanc, and robbed Labanc with his glove, giving the Avalanche another chance.

And they took advantage. Not long after, an Erik Karlsson turnover to Toews set the stage for Nathan MacKinnon’s heroics. On a breakaway, the superstar beat Kahkonen on the blocker side, giving the Avalanche the win, and putting him over the 100 point hump for the first time in his career.

With the 4-3 overtime win, the Avalanche moved into first place in the Central because of games played. They control their own destiny the rest of the way, and that starts on Thursday night, when the face-off against the Sharks again. The game, once again, starts at 8:30 PM MST.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Adrian Dater, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

This site is in no way associated with the Colorado Avalanche or the NHL. Copyright © 2019 National Hockey Now and Adrian Dater.

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