Textbook: Avalanche Suffocate Kraken, Win 4-1 to Force a Game Seven
If you had any doubts about the resiliency of this Colorado Avalanche squad, it should have been put to rest on Friday evening.
The Avalanche went into Seattle and put on a near-perfect defensive performance, holding the Kraken to only 13 shots on goal at even strength. The stars led the way for Colorado, as Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, and Devon Toews put on a clinic at both ends of the ice on the way to a 4-1 Avalanche victory.
Now, it all comes down to one game. Game Seven will take place Sunday at Ball Arena. It will be the first Game Seven in Denver since 2014.
For the first time all series, the Avalanche came out and tried to dictate the play. The opening shift by the top line was spent entirely in the offensive zone, with Grubauer being forced to make a strong right leg save on Nathan MacKinnon. The Kraken pushed back, but it was the start you wanted to see from Colorado.
And it looked like that start finally was going to pay off. At 14:31 of the period, Bowen Byram pinched in and fired a wrister over Grubauer’s glove hand, giving the Avalanche the opening goal for the first time this series.
Or so they thought.
Seattle challenged the play, and it was ruled to be offsides, negating the goal. The television cameras didn’t slow down enough to show a clear angle, but TNT also is not able to use the blueline cameras in-game for some reason. With the goal being disallowed, it remained scoreless, but not for long.
A flubbed breakout by Evan Rodrigues led to a dump in on Georgiev, which Erik Johnson just threw up the boards. It landed right on the stick of Vince Dunn, who blasted a rolling puck off Georgiev’s blocker and in. This one did count, and the Kraken had the first goal for the sixth straight game.
Rodrigues, however, made up for his mistake with 20 seconds left in the period. A great zone entry and pull-up by MacKinnon led to a one-time shot by Devon Toews. His shot went off Grubauer’s mask and landed in front. Rodrigues made a great play to chip it over to a wide-open Mikko Rantanen, who deposited it into the net for his sixth goal of the series. A massive goal for Colorado so late in the period.
For at least one period, the Avalanche looked like the Avalanche. The second from them was pure domination, as they outshot Seattle 14-4. It paid off on the scoreboard as well.
Although he didn’t get an assist on the goal, Nathan MacKinnon created the second Avalanche marker by just outworking his man in the corner. Even on his knees, he fought to keep control of the puck until help arrived. That help was Rantanen, who picked the puck up and hit Erik Johnson coming in from he point. Johnson, who didn’t score at all in the regular season, cut across the middle and let a wrist shot go towards the net. It hit the defender’s stick, bounced off the ice, and fluttered past Grubauer to give the Avalanche the lead.
Nearly 10 minutes later, the top line went to work. In a span of five seconds, every player on the ice touched the puck. Makar sent the puck to his defensive partner Toews at the other point, and Toews sent a slap-pass in front that was re-directed in by Artturi Lehkonen, giving Colorado the 3-1 advantage.
Towards the end of the period, an extremely dangerous hit by Jordan Eberle knocked Andrew Cogliano out of the game temporarily. Somehow, he was only assessed a two-minute minor penalty and not a major. I imagine the league will take a look at the hit after the game.
Off the next face-off, Grubauer made a great toe save on J.T. Compher to keep the Avalanche lead at only two. They carried that two goal lead into the third period after finally looking like themselves.
While the Avalanche didn’t generate the offensive chances they did in the second period, their defensive game was near perfect. The Kraken generated only one high-danger scoring chance in the third period, and Colorado did a good job of killing time in the offensive zone. When he was needed, Alexandar Georgiev made the saves, including a late pad save on Bjorkstrand with the Seattle net empty.
Lehkonen added a late empty net goal, securing the victory and guaranteeing a Game Seven back in Colorado. Game Seven takes place at Ball Arena on Sunday evening, and will start at 7:30 PM MST.