The Colorado Avalanche stunned the Nashville Predators with two late goals in the third period, staving off elimination in game five of the series. Andrew Hammond got the start tonight, replacing the injured Jonathan Bernier. The biggest question going into this game was how Hammond would respond to starting an elimination game in the playoffs after starting one regular season game at the NHL level this season. Consider that question answered, as he kept the Avalanche in a game largely dominated by Nashville, making 44 saves.
The Avalanche dictated the pace early, but were unable to cash in as both teams skated to a 0-0 score. Nathan MacKinnon’s use of speed created space and chances for the Avs, and the defense put in a strong effort that allowed Andrew Hammond to settle into the game. The best chance of the period came on a drop pass to Sam Girard, who wired a low shot off the right post with seven minutes left in the period.
While the scoreboard remained knotted, the Avalanche had the stronger period of the two teams and played under control until the end of the period, when J.T. Compher took a bad holding penalty in the offensive zone. The Predators worked the delayed call to the final horn, and Hammond made two strong saves to keep things scoreless.
The Avs started off the second period with a strong penalty kill, and both teams seemed content to play conservative, deliberate hockey early in the frame. Nathan MacKinnon did what he does best and took space down the right side of the ice early and often, but struggled to hit the net and test Rinne.
The second half of the period was all Andrew Hammond. His first big test came with seven minutes left, as Calle Jarnkrok was denied a point blank rebound opportunity after a Roman Josi wrist shot. Colorado struggled to mount any offensive pressure, with the lone opportunity coming on a Sven Andrighetto shot from between the circles kicked away by the left pad of Pekka Rinne.
A Hammond miscue playing the puck off the side of his own net gave Avalanche fans a collective heart attack, which was followed by a strange penalty situation late in the period.
Andrew Hammond made a clutch sprawling save on Ryan Johansen, but dropped his stick in the process. As Hammond reached to pick it up, Nashville’s Kevin Fiala deliberately poked it away, which should have been called for interference. The refs missed this, however, and Nikita Zadarov would take a slashing penalty moments later after another big Hammond save, turning the tide late in Nashville’s favor.
Hammond was up to the task of killing the penalty, making multiple quality saves, including a kick save on a Roman Josi shot that was redirected and slowed. Nashville outshot Colorado 14-8, but Hammond looked strong all period in the face of Nashville pressure.
An early Kevin Fiala holding call gave the Avs an early power play and an opportunity to turn the tide. But a Tyson Barrie miscue on the blue line gave Nashville a their first of two shorthanded rushes. The first came off a blueline miscue by Tyson Barrie that was stopped by the Hamburglar, while the second required a strong backcheck by Samuel Girard to break up the play.
Even shorthanded, Nashville kept their foot on the gas, and Colorado ended up taking a too many men penalty to end the power play prematurely. The Avs were able to escape unscathed, but momentum was all on the Predators’ side.
The pivotal moment of the game came midway through the third period as a Mattias Eckholm shot rebounded into Nick Bonino’s feet and into the net. Referee Eric Furlatt immediately waved off the goal, as Bonino’s right foot appeared to have a distinct kicking motion. Video review seemed to confirm this, and the NBC broadcast team unanimously agreed that the call on the ice was the correct call.
So, of course, the call was reversed, Nashville took a 1-0 lead, and their fans chanted about how Andrew Hammond, apparently, sucks.
Hammond bounced right back and continued to make strong saves, and Colorado threw numbers forward to finally mount sustained offensive pressure for the first time in the game with seven minutes remaining. Nashville seemed content to collapse their defense and clog shooting lanes, allowing the Avalanche to win pucks in the corners and keep the puck in the offensive zone.
And then the game turned on a dime.
The breakthrough for the Colorado finally came with 4:11 left in the game, as the puck fell onto Nathan MacKinnon’s stick after rattling around the slot. One of the hottest shooters in the league this playoff held the puck... and held it... and held it... and slid a brilliant pass to Gabriel Landeskog, giving the Avs a desperately needed goal to keep the season alive.
Nashville immediately looked to answer, getting the defense involved offensively. Under mounting pressure, the Avalanche caught P.K. Subban too deep in the offensive zone and sprung an odd-man rush. J.T. Compher’s shot was turned away by Pekka Rinne, but the rebound fell right to Sven Andrighetto, who banged home the game-winning goal. Nashville created a couple of chances on their last possession, but Hammond was sharp as ever, sending the series back to the Pepsi Center.
- I cannot say enough about Andrew Hammond’s play tonight. He needed to be peak Hamburglar, and was peak Hamburglar all night. This game could have easily gotten out of hand multiple times, but Hammond played with focus and controlled his rebounds well. This is a goalie who played one NHL game this season, and is only on this team as a salary dump from Ottawa, filling in for two injured goaltenders ahead of him on the depth chart. How did he handle the situation? Oh, just by turning in a 44 save performance on the road in an elimination game against the President’s Trophy winners (that really should have been a shutout).
- Jared Bednar also deserves a lot of credit for how he handled the goal review being overturned. The Avalanche are a young team that were thrust into a monstrously-uphill battle when that goal was allowed. Bednar remained calm, immediately motioned for his players to come in, and was a stoic presence on the bench in the face of adversity. That’s exactly what a young team needs in that moment.
- Distinct. Kicking. Motion. I’m shocked that call got overturned. This is the NHL’s version of trying to define a catch in the NFL.
- This game really lacked the nastiness of earlier games in the series until the third period. Not nearly as many post-whistle scrums as we saw previously between these two teams. The Predators avoided taking the dumb penalties that have plagued them all series, but I couldn’t help but notice that the arena’s energy didn’t seem quite as high as it was for games one and two.
- While the Avs struggled to mount much offense in this game, you can’t fault the team for lack of effort. Credit the Preds for making establishing the O-zone nearly impossible until late in the game.
- Colorado absolutely shut down Filip Forsberg tonight. They game plan was simple: keep him wide, and don’t let him beat you inside. The Avalanche never gave him a chance to impact this game.
- Colorado’s defense looks so much stronger with Sam Girard in the lineup. It’s not often you can say that about a rookie defenseman.
- I really liked how involved J.T. Compher and Tyson Jost looked in the first couple of periods.
- Roman Josi had an outstanding game, getting involved deep in the offensive zone early and often, forcing the Avalanche to play in their own zone.
- Winnipeg looked strong against the Wild, clinching their series tonight. Tough, tough second round matchup for the winner of this series.
- The Avs officially outlasted the Wild in the playoffs. Gotta enjoy the small things.
- This might be the best opening round matchup of the playoffs. Not many people saw that coming.
Colorado is playing with house money at this point. They stole a must-win game on the road with a third string goalie, and they aren’t letting the opportunity get the best of them. They looked loose and calm all game, even under relentless Nashville pressure. Coming back home with momentum on their side, they just might take game six, then it’s anybody’s game back in Nashville to close the series.
Enjoy this one, Avalanche fans.