It might be the most underrated color match-up in the playoffs but the series between the teams in burgundy and teal has exceeded the hype. The ColoradoAvalanche were looking to repeat what they had done in their first round series and that is take a 1-1 series tie with the San Jose Sharks before heading back to Denver for their pair of opening games. History did in fact repeat itself as the Avalanche erased a deficit and then hung on for a 4-3 victory to earn the series split in San Jose.
The Avalanche snapped a five game losing streak to the Sharks and they now return to Denver having taken over home ice advantage.
The first period went in favor of San Jose both in shots 11-6 and on the scoreboard. Evander Kane got position in front of the net and deposited a Brent Burns shot turned rebound at 7:57 for the game’s first score. The Avalanche somehow managed the feat of getting pinned in their own zone with the puck as they continually tried to break out and were thwarted before the red line.
There was not much improvement in the second frame until the Avalanche killed off a Carl Soderberg penalty and gained a bit of momentum. Gabe Landeskog tipped a Tyson Barrie shot for Colorado’s first goal at 8:21 which proceeded to give the team even more life.
Barrie then scored his own goal at 16:31 after Mikko Rantanen negated an icing and pushed the puck out in front of the net. Chaos ensued and Barrie rifled a shot past goaltender Martin Jones for his first career playoff goal. The period ended much more even in shots 13-12 for the Avalanche.
Every playoff victory need a hard working depth goal and the Avalanche received just that when Matts Calvert and Nieto converged on the crease and it was the later who eventually poked the puck through Jones at 10:10 to give the Avalanche a two goal cushion.
With just under five minutes to go things got a bit more interesting than the Avalanche would have liked as Brent Burns cut the lead to one at 15:26 after Alexander Kerfoot lost his skate blade in coverage.
A time killing power play helped get the Avalanche closer to the finish line before San Jose pulled the goaltender and Nathan MacKinnon added an insurance goal with a minute left to play thanks in large part to a huge effort from Calvert to get the puck out of the defensive zone. Burns added a one final goal in the dying seconds but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Avalanche from taking this one and a series tie back home for game three.
Those who snuck away to watch Game of Thrones missed the adjustments coach Jared Bednar made after the first intermission to open up room for the Avalanche to get their speed and skill working in the offensive zone. He cited getting the defensemen more involved to skate the puck up ice as something that made a difference. The team played with more poise and urgency as they were consistently first to loose pucks.
This was the first contest Samuel Girard and Cale Makar were officially paired together and some have coined the duo as “Turn and Burn”. They played together for just over 10 minutes at even strength and held their own with 65% of the shot share. There was a shift late in the third period where the two held possession in the Sharks zone for nearly a minute with just their skating ability and passes back and forth with an occasional shot. It was a tantalizingly quick glimpse at the future which is rapidly becoming the present.
MacKinnon and Rantanen each extended their points streaks to six-games and Barrie ended up with three points in this contest as the best players continue to play well. Philipp Grubauer had another strong effort in net with 31 saves and was even rewarded with an assist on the MacKinnon empty net goal. It took a full team effort for the win however and is what will have to continue for the Avalanche to take this series.
Upcoming: Game three back home in Colorado on Tuesday, April 30th at 8pm MT.