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Lehkonen The Overtime Hero (Again), As Avalanche Beat Oilers 3-2

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The Colorado Avalanche got a glimpse of what a fully healthy lineup could look like for them on Saturday night, and I think they’re going to be very happy with what they saw.

Colorado peppered Stuart Skinner with 43 shots over 64:59 of hockey, but it was the last one that mattered the most. With 0.5 seconds left in the game, Artturi Lehkonen beat Skinner off a great pass from Nathan MacKinnon, giving the Avalanche their sixth win in a row. At this point, Oilers fans have to be used to Lehkonen sending them home disappointed. If you stayed up late on Saturday night, you were treated to a tremendous hockey game between two of the best (and fastest) teams in the league. There two teams will meet again twice more this season, and could easily face each other in the postseason.

With the victory, the Avalanche moved to first place in the Central Division again, and are now just one point back of the Canucks for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Sean Walker scored both goals for Colorado in regulation to get the game to overtime, and Alexandar Georgiev was great in net, stopping 32 of 34 shots.

First Period

The highly anticipated matchup between the Oilers and Avalanche got off to a relatively tepid start. Both teams had not seen each other this year, and looked like they were trying to get a feel for one another.

There were plenty of chances at both ends. Edmonton got in front of a few of Colorado’s best chances, but the Avalanche also passed up some looks. Casey Mittelstadt tried to sneak a few passes through that the Oilers got in the way of, and MacKinnon decided to pass on a late two-on-one with Nichushkin. Edmonton’s defenseman got back and broke that play up, keeping the game tied.

Georgiev did his job at the other end, stopping all 10 Oilers shots.

Second Period

The first was solid hockey, but the second period really kicked it up a notch. Both teams looked like they were shot out of rockets to start the period, and the result was incredible end-to-end hockey.

At one end, Alexandar Georgiev was really strong. He made a few tremendous saves moving right-to-left, including one on Leon Draisaitl on an Edmonton powerplay. Later in the period, he robbed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all alone in front of the net not once, but twice.

At the other end, Stuart Skinner had to face the ultimate test – a penalty shot. Jonathan Drouin was hooked on a breakaway, and awarded the most exciting play in hockey. Drouin looked like he might have had Skinner beat if he held onto the puck a half-second longer, but Skinner got just enough of the puck to keep it out of the net. Skinner later stopped Nathan MacKinnon, who burst through the Oilers defense for his best chance of the night.

Halfway through the period, Colorado’s new-look second line came through, with the help of the newest addition on defense. Artturi Lehkonen, returning from illness, made a terrific play in the neutral zone. He saw a hit coming, but held onto the puck long enough to spring Sean Walker for a two-on-one with Drouin. Walker looked off Drouin and beat Skinner on the blocker side, giving the Avalanche the 1-0 lead.

A tremendous period of hockey, and one the Avalanche had to have been very happy with. They outshot the Oilers 16-9 and carried their lead into the third period.

Third Period

Down a goal, the Oilers really came out pushing to start the third period. It looked like they tied it up early, as Zach Hyman snuck one past Georgiev on a rebound, but a review showed Hyman pretty clearly kicked the puck in, so the goal didn’t count.

That didn’t slow down Edmonton, and soon after, they did tie it up on a goal that actually counted. They were helped by a few failed clears from the Avalanche. First, Valeri Nichushkin couldn’t get the puck past Foegele at the blueline, which extended the zone-time for the Oilers. After Foegele’s initial shot, Sam Girard cleared it to the boards, but it went right to Bouchard, whose one-time shot was tipped home by Foegele to tie the game at one.

Edmonton had all the momentum, and the Avalanche were caught chasing again with a little over eight minutes left in the third. The puck eventually came to Sam Carrick in front, who got positioning on Josh Manson and beat Georgiev on the glove hand, making it 2-1.

Colorado, who were in control of the game after two periods, needed something good to happen, and the new guys came through.

After a dominant shift in the offensive zone, Jonathan Drouin sent the puck down low to Mittelstadt. He carried the puck around the net, and noticed Sean Walker flying into the slot. Mittelstadt sent a perfect pass to Walker’s stick, and the defenseman one-timed home his second goal of the game, tying the game up at two.

Fittingly, this game needed an extra period to settle things. That’s not uncommon between the Avalanche and Oilers, as every game last year went to overtime.

Overtime

Both sides had great chances to win the game in the extra period on breakaways. Sean Walker, looking for his first career hat trick, nearly had it after he flew past the Oilers defenders, but his shot missed high. At the other end, Nugent-Hopkins had about as clear a breakaway as you can get, but Georgiev stoned him with his glove.

Just when it looked like this game was headed to a shootout, “The Closer” put an end to it.

Nathan MacKinnon chased down a Cale Makar pass in the corner of the Oilers zone, and with no time left, sent a backhand pass out front to Artturi Lehkonen, who ripped a shot past Skinner to win the game. The puck went in and out of the net so quickly that Lehkonen didn’t even know he had scored, but he did, and the Avalanche walked away with a 3-2 win with just 0.5 seconds left on the clock.

Colorado will now look to close out a perfect road trip in St. Louis on Tuesday when they take on the Blues.

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