Two teams going opposite directions met in Game Three of the first round playoff series between the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators. The home team would again prevail as the Avalanche held on to win 5-3 and cut into Nashville’s now 2-1 series lead to make things at least interesting.
The Avalanche needed to get out to a fast start and grab the first goal again and did just that when Blake Comeau perfectly tipped a Carl Soderberg shot past Pekka Rinne less than two minutes into the contest. What had eluded the Avalanche all series long was a two goal lead and they found it at 13:24 when Gabriel Bourque tipped a shot this time from Patrik Nemeth.
Why stop at two? The Avalanche were not quite done in the first period when they buried another as Nathan MacKinnon scored a game and possibly series defining goal at 18:07. Gabe Landeskog did all the work in the neutral zone dragging the puck away from Mike Fisher and then fed MacKinnon the puck just as he darted into the offensive zone all alone. The shot was a no doubter as cheers and “MVP” chants erupted.
The second period saw the team trade goals when MacKinnon netted his second tally of the evening at 4:25 on a superb passing play with Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. Rinne was then done for the evening as Juuse Saros entered the crease. The officials got involved and handed Nashville a 5 on 3 where Ryan Johansen accepted the gift and put the Predators on the board at 10:23. The rest of the period devolved into a chippy penalty fest.
Things calmed down in the third period and Nashville got one back fairly early to bring the game within two at 7:12 from Colton Sissions. However, the Avalanche held on and prevailed through multiple stoppages and icings. Landeskog was awarded the fifth goal when he was hauled down heading for the empty net and then Austin Watson scored his obligatory nightly goal with the goalie still pulled but the game ended 5-3 in favor of the Avalanche.
Even though the defensive core has held together admirably through the absence of Erik Johnson and Samuel Girard, the Avalanche could really use Girard back in the lineup in the next game. He brings a lot of unique elements to the team and puck movement has suffered without him. Coach Jared Bednar said that he was hopeful Girard could return soon. It speaks to how important Girard has already become to the team by how much his absence is felt.
Other than David Warsofsky it is Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot who saw the least amount of even strength ice time in this contest. Bednar has liked the heaviness veterans like Colin Wilson and Bourque have brought to the lineup and it is taking away minutes from his young forwards. This is quite understandable given how the series has gone but in order to really have a shot at upsetting Nashville. the Avalanche really need to get the young line contributing.
The Avalanche have grown well together as a team but ultimately Nathan MacKinnon was the deciding factor in this game and most likely in the series. He continues his blistering pace at home with the two goals scored in this contest. Hopefully he has a few more goals in his bag of tricks for the next game.
The Avalanche remain at home and hope to even the series with a victory against Nashville in Game Four on Wednesday, April 18th at 8pm MT on NBCSN.