The Colorado Avalanche take a commanding two games to none series lead within the Vegas Golden Knights, despite putting in a operation to forget. Phillip Grubauer was unbelievable, stopping 39 of 41 shots as Mikko Rantanen iced the game in overtime with a power play goal to the top netting.
The Avalanche were uncharacteristically mistake prone this day; having eight giveaways and permitting several one on one opportunities for Vegas. Thankfully Grubauer was around the job and stole a critical matchup before the series shifts to the desert.
Minutes into the game, Brandon Saad opened the scoring on a lucky shot off a breakaway. Sam Girard started the play in the defensive zone using a three-line pass around Saad who'd split the shield. As he arrived, his rod was obstructed only at the last moment, forcing his shooter to slide across the ice. Fortunately, it went through Vezina-nominee Marc-Andre Fleury's five-hole and in for the game's opening goal. Ryan Graves got the second assist for this goal.
Nicolas Hague hauled down Valeri Nichushkin afterwards he'd gotten round the defenseman driving into the net. Hague was committing two minutes for holding, sending the Avalanche to the power play. Joonas Donskoi took a shot in the first half of their man advantage, but the Golden Knight immediately cleared and killed off time. The second unit came on and Girard linked with JT Compher for a rebound chance in front of the net, but the Golden Knights collapsed in the front of the internet and Fleury maintained his foot on the post.
Alex Newhook then got called for his own holding penalty seconds after the first penalty was murdered. Together with the power play set up, Alec Martinez scored from the wing to tie the game. The shot wasn't quite striking, but the pass from Max Pacioretty fooled everyone, such as Grubauer. The goalie had made a dive across, but the shot to the ice found a pit. A tough break, but one which was reciprocated earlier with the Saad goal.
What is with all the holding penalties? Pacioretty got his own holding penalty a few minutes then. It sent the Avs into the power play, which unfortunately they didn't score . They had some much better shots, from the front of the net, so the target will come soon.
Another penalty! This one to Jonathan Marchessault for hauling Nathan MacKinnon, who forced the penalty with an exceptional cut to the center of the ice. Mac looked like he dove as his hand flung up into the atmosphere, but the trip was already there and running into a stick doesn't count as diving.
And on that power play, Tyson Jost reclaims the lead! Girard gets his second assist of the night after coming down the wing and finding Jost alone in the middle of the slot. It wasn't his best shot, but it found a hole through the maze of pole to beat Fleury. It was certainly"one of those" nights.
Another punishment! This time Shea Theodore for shooting the puck over the glass after getting pressured into the corner off the draw by MacKinnon. The first unit had a flurry of chances from the left Rantanen all over the face of the net, but somehow nothing found its way in.
It was a low event period at 5v5 simply since there were nearly 10 minutes of power plays in the match. The Avs had four opportunities, scoring on a single, while the Golden Knights scored on their lone chance. Considering all the special teams, the Avs kids have not gotten any more than a couple changes each. The punishment did not help Newhook.
The Golden Knights jumped out of the gate looking to take the game to Colorado. Grubauer made an extended series of great saves; utilizing stellar place to kill the puck and deny Vegas any chance . The Avalanche would relieve pressure marginally, with Saad generating a chance that has been countered with a strong shift from the very best line was short lived.
Reilly Smith is left detected (after one of those numerous giveaways by Avalanche defenders throughout the time ) by Ryan Graves, who blows his mission and Smith defeats Grubauer with a nice deke into a backhand.
The Avalanche netminder might need another crack at that opportunity after watching the tape, but Vegas probably deserved a goal with how poorly Colorado was playing in its own zone.
Colorado reacts with a nice sustained cycle that results in zero pressure on Fleury until Patrik Nemeth requires an exceptionally poorly timed slashing penalty to put Vegas on the power play with a opportunity to take their first lead of the sequence. Nichushskin and Girard stood out on an essential penalty kill effort to keep the game knotted at two.
The score would stay even at the finish of the period, but not until the Avalanche talented a couple more chances to the Golden Knights with turnovers. One such opportunity nearly resulted in a Marchessault target; using only a slight deflection away Grubauer's glove steering the puck off the crossbar and broad.
This was not a fantastic time for Colorado. In what was likely the single worst period of the playoffs for the Avalanche so much, Grubauer ensured a sloppy period of play would not put the team in a hole. The Vezina-award nominee put on a series in the period, stopping 15 shots. Multiple defensive zone giveaways without a real cohesion on offense led to Colorado becoming outshot 16-6 in the period. For a group that made its cash during the next period all season, this is a shock to see unfold.
Faceoffs are also proving to be a problem for the Avalanche tonight, with Vegas absolutely dominating the dot (63%) via two.
Smith rang another article, as Grubauer was under siege for the first 90 minutes of the period, forced to make five rapid-fire saves before freezing the puck. Soon thereafter, Grubauer is made to make another sensational save, this time denying Pacioretty on a breakaway.
The first"shot" on goal proved to be a blue line reverse that struck Fleury directly in the emblem of the sweater. The very first real shot didn't occur until over eight minutes had ticked off the clock in the interval.
When he had been called into action, Fleury maintained Colorado off the scoreboard too. After denying MacKinnon on a good opportunity, the Vegas goaltender shut down the Avalanche power playearned following Tuch went to the sin bin for a dip. The first unit was strong, generating multiple chances on the Vegas net, before the second unit gave up a big short-hand chance. Immediately as the penalty finished, Tuch raced out of the box to get a one on one with Grubauer which was shut down with a big rescue.
After almost a complete game of speaking not being brought up, the zebras determined they wanted to enter the dialogue. After missing a crosscheck into the face of Landeskog that ended with the captain sporting a bloody nose and a clear trip in the neutral zone on Burakovsky the Avalanche went on the penalty kill Toews tripping Pietrangelo. The Ball Arena audience and Landeskog himself let their displeasure be known to the referee crew after the telephone, but it would not stop the Vegas electricity play.
Enter Grubauer, once again, to save the day. There's a reason he's a Vezina award nominee and he was IMMENSE about the penalty kill to prevent the Golden Knights from a winner late in the third.
To overtime we go.
Following the Third
Thank Grubauer that this game isn't over and we're looking at an even string. For first time this season the Avalanche give around 40 shots on target and Grubauer has been more than up to the job. The crime, on the other hand, was uncharacteristically stifled -just handling 23 shots .
The Avalanche were slightly better in the third, but nevertheless vastly outplayed by Vegas at the period. The very first point was beginning to generate chances towards the end of the framework.
The overtime period started similar to the third and second phases; together with the Avalanche in their trunk and consuming Vegas pressure.
Then this happened.
3-2Powerplay goal, Rantanen buries it top shelf off aids in MacKinnon and Makar. It could not have finished any more perfectly.
Colorado is lucky to be leaving Ball Arena with a 2-0 series advantage. The Avalanche were completely outplayed in the second and third phase and, if not for Grubauer putting in a masterful performance between the pipes, would have been heading to Las Vegas with an additional series.
Let's talk some more about how beautiful Grubauer was tonight. Not only did he quit 39 of 41 shots faced, the Avalanche netminder also stonewalled a range of breakaways and washed up a lot of sloppy turnovers for the defense. Common concept said that Grubauer would have to steal a game for Colorado to acquire this series - there's your steal.
As far as non-Grubauer Avalanche players, they were not so excellent. Outside of Saad, who played great, and also both power play objectives, Colorado looked a step slow at strength tonight. The extra day rest appeared to do wonders for Vegas and unless Grubauer has yet another operation like tonight, the Avalanche need to be MUCH better on the path to take this series.
Shots: COL 25 - VGK 41
Faceoff %: COL 44 - VGK 56
Powerplay: COL 2/6 - VGK 1/3
PIM: COL 6 - VGK 12
Hits: COL 22 - VGK 21
Blocked Shots: COL 17 - VGK 28
Giveaways: COL 8 - VGK 3
The series will shift to Las Vegas with Colorado up two games.