Over the final two weeks of the regular season, the Colorado Avalanche kept winning, but it wasn’t picture-perfect hockey. Not by a long stretch.
In game one, that continued, and the visiting Seattle Kraken pounced.
Seattle came out with a purpose, putting the Avalanche on their heels early and never letting them find their footing. They took advantage of simple mistakes by the Avalanche on their way to a 3-1 victory. The Avalanche had their moments, but execution was off all night long, with sloppy passing and mostly chances from the perimeter. In the end, life was too easy for Philipp Grubauer, as he was able to see the majority of the 35 shots Colorado sent his way. The Avalanche will need to be much better in game two if they want to tie the series up before it heads to Seattle.
An Avalanche team that hadn’t played as a full unit in months looked sloppy and slow to start the game. And the Kraken took advantage of that sloppy play, capitalizing on an uncharacteristic turnover by Devon Toews.
Behind his own net, Toews took the puck from Alexandar Georgiev. With a forechecker on him, he made a risky pass up the middle that went right to Eeli Tolvanen. The Finn was all alone in front, and had his first shot stopped by Georgiev. With no Avalanche defenders near him, he picked up his rebound and deposited it into the net, giving the Kraken the early 1-0 lead just 3:26 in.
It could have gotten worse, as Josh Manson took a hooking penalty a little over halfway through the period, giving Seattle a powerplay. The penalty itself looked a little soft, but the Avalanche gained a lot of momentum from killing it off. Immediately after the powerplay was over, the Kraken iced the puck, giving the Avalanche an offensive zone face-off. They quickly made the Kraken pay.
After a clean face-off win, Bowen Byram hit MacKinnon along the wall with a pass. The Kraken defender backed off MacKinnon for some reason, giving the superstar a ton of room. Mikko Rantanen was left all alone on the backdoor, choked up on his stick, and deflected the MacKinnon pass behind Grubauer, tying the game at one.
No other goals were scored in the period, but the Avalanche gained momentum from that goal. Cale Makar, playing his first game in over two weeks, looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. His physical play is what stood out, as he threw big hits on both Bjorkstrand and Gourde, pumping the crowd up.
Whatever momentum the Avalanche had at the end of the first period disappeared entirely at the start of the second.
Just 1:20 into the second period, the Kraken got their lead back off a 3-on-2. Jaden Schwartz sent a pass across to Alex Wennberg, who immediately fired a wrist shot toward the net. Georgiev looked to trip over his own skate, and was off-balance coming across, leaving the top of the net open. The puck beat him up high, giving the Kraken the 2-1 lead.
Colorado did get two powerplays in the second period, but couldn’t capitalize on either of them. Late in the second period, Byram, who was buzzing most of the period, hit the crossbar on a good look at the left face-off circle. The period ended with Artturi Lehkonen throwing a big hit on Seattle’s young star Matty Beniers. Could that spark the Avalanche heading into the third period?
The easy answer? No, not really.
Just like in the previous two periods, the Kraken came out and scored early, taking the crowd out of the game.
A dump around the boards from Seattle went behind the Avalanche net, and Manson didn’t anticipate a Kraken player being there to stop it. Instead, he skated right past Wennberg, who fed a wide-open Geekie in the slot. The center fired a quick shot past Georgiev, giving the Kraken the 3-1 lead.
The rest of the period consisted of the Kraken slowing the game down, forcing the Avalanche to dump and chase for puck retrieval. That’s exactly what Seattle wants, and they executed their gameplan to perfection. The Avalanche generated plenty of shot attempts, but most of them were from a distance, with the team picking up only three high-danger chances. With the net empty, MacKinnon hit the post, and that was as close as the Avalanche would come to getting back into the game.
Just like every other road team in the Western Conference, the Kraken walked away with a game one win, and an early series lead. For the Avalanche, it’s not time to panic, but the execution just wasn’t there from the get-go.
Game two takes place on Thursday night, and it starts at 7:30 PM MST.