Just when it looked like the Colorado Avalanche might be down and out, that championship mettle kicked in.
And the Kraken did not have an answer.
The Avalanche responded after an absolutely awful first, outshooting Seattle 31-18 in the final two periods on their way to a 3-2 victory. Colorado got back to their game, pushing the pace and activating their defensemen, and the Kraken couldn’t slow them down. The Avalanche took their first lead of the series late in the third period, and held on for the win, tying the series at one.
Alexandar Georgiev made 27 saves for his first career playoff win, and the Avalanche saw four different defensemen pick up points on their goals.
The series now shifts to Seattle, where a wild crowd will surely await the defending Stanley Cup champs.
After game one, you figure the Avalanche would come out flying, right?
Not. Even. Close.
Just like in game one, the Kraken came out and dominated the Avalanche, controlling the puck and not allowing the Avalanche to sustain any sort of pressure. And just like game one, Colorado had no answer.
For the second straight game, a mistake by Devon Toews helped create the first goal for the Kraken. The veteran defenseman pinched at the offensive blueline with no help from the forwards, leading to a 2-on-1 the other way. Cale Makar was very aggressive, rushing towards Tolvanen to take away the pass, but it still got through to a wide open Justin Schultz. The defenseman sent the puck right through Georgiev’s legs, giving the Kraken a 1-0 lead and taking the fans out of the game. Again.
The Avalanche killed off another Josh Manson penalty, and got a powerplay soon after. A good chance to gain some momentum, right?
On the Avalanche powerplay, Yanni Gourde dumped the puck into the corner. Makar let him get the puck, and followed behind. The two battled, and Makar’s stick was knocked out of his hands. J.T. Compher, who was lurking there, didn’t do much to help Makar, and when the puck bounced out, Gourde dove and tipped it out to a streaking Brandon Tanev. The veteran forward wired one over Georgiev’s shoulder, giving the Kraken the 2-0 lead. A furious Makar yelled at the refs, but it wasn’t coming back.
Boos rained down on the Avalanche at points in the period, and really came down at the end of the period. Georgiev made a breakaway save on Gourde late to keep it a two goal lead, but the buzzer sounded, ending an unacceptable period for the home team. That save proved to be massive, though.
Whatever was said in between periods worked. The Avalanche team that came out in the second was a completely different squad from the lifeless one that showed up in the first.
After a strong start to the period, where the Avalanche forced the Kraken into numerous icings, they finally got on the scoresheet. MacKinnon cleanly won a face-off in the offensive zone back to Bowen Byram. He sent it over to his defensive partner Cale Makar, who blasted a one-timer towards the net. Arturri Lehkonen, parked in the high slot, deflected the puck down and past Grubauer, cutting the Kraken lead to one.
Just 48 seconds later, Valeri Nichushkin tied it up. Toews made a great play and pass, catching the Kraken on a line change. Rodrigues stayed onside, caught the pass, and sent a backhand pass to a streaking Nichushkin. The big Russian turned the puck over to his backhand, beating Grubauer and sending the crowd into a frenzy. After a horrific first period, the Avalanche had come back to tie the game. It finally felt like a playoff series.
The rest of the period only brought on more action. Rodrigues threw a massive hit on Vince Dunn in the offensive zone, but the rest of the second belonged to Alexandar Georgiev. He made some big saves on a Kraken powerplay, but his biggest came in the final minute of the period. Seattle found themselves on a 3-on-1 and passed the puck around before it ended up on Jordan Eberle’s stick. He didn’t get all of it, but got enough, and Georgiev stretched across to stop it with his right skate.
That save allowed the game to stay tied, setting up an exciting third period.
If you are a fan of playoff hockey, the third period was made for you. End-to-end action, physical play, and a general dislike for one another with each team. Colorado controlled most of the play, outshooting the Kraken 15-6. Their hard work finally paid off in the end, and brought some redemption for a defenseman who had made some big mistakes early in the series.
After another offensive zone face-off win, the puck came up high to Girard, who fed Lehkonen at the blueline. The winger wasted no time throwing a puck at the net, and Grubauer left a big rebound out in the open. Toews pinched down from the point, escaping the Kraken coverage, and fired the rebound by the blocker of the Kraken goalie, giving the Avalanche their first lead of the series.
The Kraken pulled the goalie pretty early, but never really came particularly close to scoring, as the Avalanche protected Georgiev really well over the final four minutes of the game. After a few missed attempts at the empty net, the buzzer sounded, and the Avalanche left Ball Arena with a big 3-2 victory.
With the series now all tied up at one, it will head to Seattle, where the Kraken will host the first playoff games in franchise history. Game three takes place on Saturday night, and starts at 8 PM MST. Colorado Hockey Now will be there to cover it all.