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Avalanche let game slip away late to fall 4-1 in Sin City

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The Vegas Golden Knights score four in the final two periods against Avalanche to clinch a playoff berth

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

As the Colorado Avalanche arrived in Sin City on Monday night, they were facing a team hungry to see postseason action - and just a win away from guaranteeing they could do so.

Semyon Varlamov and the Avalanche started off strong, but were ultimately unable to hold off a playoff berth for their conference rivals another night, falling 4-1 on the road at T. Mobile Arena.

THE RUNDOWN

The first period was, for a pair of high-event hockey teams, one of the duller matchups seen by either club in a while.

Neither team was able to score, although the Avalanche certainly gave Vegas a run for their money; if Marc-Andre Fleury hadn’t turned away 12 shots in the first 20 minutes alone, the tone of the game may have been drastically altered before the first buzzer sounded.

Nathan MacKinnon would showcase his Hart-contender skills through the period, dominating the Vegas lineup in each shift he was on the ice - but despite outshooting a normally offense-heavy Vegas lineup 12-3 during the frame, he and the rest of the Avalanche roster were left without anything to show for their efforts as they went into the first intermission.

The second period, things started to heat up - although for Colorado, not in the way they’d likely hoped.

Colorado found themselves down a skater in the first few minutes of action due to a too many men penalty, and Vegas was unable to resist converting. Despite lacking any quality scoring chances in the first, Alex Tuch managed to put up a tremendous effort to slip the puck past Varlamov to open up scoring just over four minutes in.

The Golden Knights watched as Jonathan Marchessault fired a shot from the point to Varlamov in the crease, who sent a rebound to William Karlsson’s stick - but despite the former Blue Jackets forward seeming like the biggest threat, his whiffed shot was actually collected by Tuch and chipped in on Varlamov’s other side:

Coming into the game, Vegas cashed in 31 times when they managed to open up scoring.

Colorado seemed to regain some life after a Ryan Reaves shot hit the post, bringing the puck back up the ice and scoring what was ultimately ruled a good goal (despite a seemingly valid challenge for goaltender interference).

Vegas would continue their dominance, though, when a poor high-sticking penalty taken by Tyson Jost resulted in yet another Jonathan Marchessault-orchestrated power-play goal just over five minutes before the period was over.

Colorado would attempt to fight back, putting on the pressure in the final minutes of the second, but were ultimately unable to solve Fleury.

By the third period, the Avalanche seemed tired and discouraged; they would finish the period outshot a whopping 15-4, despite trailing their opponent by a goal coming into the period.

Vegas wouldn’t let them off easily, though. Shea Theodore would earn his fifth of the season beating Varlamov high glove-side, and then William ‘Wild Bill’ Karlsson would get his fortieth goal of the year to seal the deal:

With that, Colorado was all but over, and the game would wrap up with a decisive win for the home team.

NOTES

  • By midway through the second period, Nathan MacKinnon was being double shifted - and it may have just not been his night, or maybe it exhausted him. But the league-wide elite forward failed to record a point, a reminder that every game he’s unable to score is another that players like Connor McDavid gain on him and Nikita Kucherov up at the top.
  • It’s great to see Marc-Andre Fleury so universally loved in Vegas, particularly after he so selflessly gave up his spot with the Penguins to allow them the chance to hold on to Matt Murray. On the other end of the ice, though, there was more frustration than glee; with his 21st straight appearance, it was time to question whether or not Varlamov is starting to get tired. Never known as the league’s most durable goaltender, it will be a moot point if the Avalanche make the postseason working him to the bone just to see him sit out their playoff run due to an injury.
  • With their regulation loss, Colorado slipped to the second Wild Card spot behind the Los Angeles Kings. They’re now just one point up on an incredibly hungry St. Louis squad, who also hold a game in hand as they prepare for their West Coast road trip this week. In a bit of good news, though, any hope that the Flames had of surging back and getting into the chase was diminished with a 3-0 shutout loss to the Kings on the night; while St. Louis remains a very real threat for Colorado, they at the very least don’t have to worry about Calgary anymore. At the very worst, the Dallas Stars - who are six points out in as many games - could go on a tear and re-join the Wild Card race. For now, though, it seems as if it’s down to Colorado and St. Louis fighting for their playoff lives.