The Colorado Avalanche find themselves on the brink of elimination after falling to the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in a nail-biting affair in California. The Sharks now hold a 3-2 lead in the second-round series, with Game 6 set to be played on Monday in Colorado. If the Avalanche win that, we go to Game 7.
It was a frustrating night for Avs fans, as they were forced to bear witness to a goalie duel between Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones that was mostly on Grubauer’s side of the ice because the Sharks walked all over the Avalanche.
The Sharks led in 5v5 shot attempts all night (42-50), but it was special teams where Colorado really felt behind. The Avs gave San Jose five power play opportunities over the 60 minutes in which they took 20 shots, including 13 scoring chances.
The Avalanche had a good start to the game, they came out with fire and took an early lead in shots. Captain Gabe Landeskog had a particularly inspiring moment early on when he battled Brent Burns (who didn’t have a stick) along the boards, and despite literally getting punched and rode on the back by the big bearded man, Babe was able to sneak away and powered his way to the slot where he got away a decent shot. It didn’t hit the net, so it wasn’t considered a shot on goal, but it was definitely a scoring chance that helped push momentum in his team’s favour.
But it didn’t last, and the Sharks took control of the next 10 minutes of gametime and were only slowed in their march to skate the Avalanche out of the rink in the first period when Timo Meier high-sticked Mikko Rantanen in the face. The Sharks had thought they scored on the play because Kevin LaBanc was able to use the open lane given to him because Rantanen was on the ice to whip a shot high glove on Grubauer. Luckily, after a quick conversation between the referees, the goal was called back.
This goal is disallowed because of a high sticking call on Meier but what a beautiful carry-in by Thornton before stopping up to create this passing lane.— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) May 5, 2019
Too bad -- score stays 0-0. pic.twitter.com/qBb3KYwADQ
Unfortunately, that non-call didn’t help the Avalanche gain any footing in the game, as the Sharks quickly killed off the two minutes and went back to peppering Grubauer with shots. Logan Couture had a big chance in front of the net where Grubauer had to make a spectacular effort to save it. At the tail end of the period, Matt Nieto had two amazing chances right in the heart of the slot after he was fed a pass from Compher. Cale Makar followed up the play with a drive to the net himself. I couldn’t find video of that specific play, but here’s a clip of Makar doing similar Cale things.
After One, the shot metrics were close, but the Sharks were clearly more able to create longer zone time. the Avalanche got a lot of their chances off the rush, which is great, but in a grinding game like this where the goalies really needed to be challenged, it was a lot harder for the Avalanche to do so.
It was a much better second period for the Avalanche, who were able to keep the shots relatively even for much of the period. Makar and Nathan MacKinnon both drew a penalty, and the second of the two pushed the Sharks on their back foot enough for Tyson Jost to open the scoring.
J.T. Compher started the play by doing something fans screamed for during the majority of Game 4: he threw the puck on net. Jones didn’t provide the best rebound control — which is something he’s never been good at in this series, but hasn’t been exposed because the defense in front of him have been able to bail him out a lot — and Burns unluckily batted the puck right off Jost and in for his first career playoff goal. In his second intermission interview, Jost had no idea that he scored, assuming Alexander Kerfoot behind him had gotten the puck in.
In the dying seconds of the second, Tomas Hertl tore the heart out of the Avs. They were so close to closing out the period with a lead, with all the momentum. Alas, half a minute after Tyson Barrie was called for hip-checking Evander Kane, Hertl was able to get open in the middle of the slot just in time to tip home the point shot from Couture for his first goal of the series.
It was a much better period for the Avalanche. They were able to half the number of shot attempts taken by the Sharks while pulling even with them in that category at 5v5. After two, the shot attempts were 14 all, the shots were 8-10 in favour of the Sharks, but the scoring chances were tied at sixes.
No, I haven't stopped laughing pic.twitter.com/0kDgYeV2Mc— ♀️Lauren Kelly ♀️ (@laurkelly24) May 5, 2019
It didn’t take long for the Sharks to use the momentum they had stolen from the previous period to get ahead by one. Six minutes into the period, Marc-Edouard Vlasic took a shot from the point and Grubauer was fractions of an inch away from snagging the puck with his glove, but instead it fell to the ice just to his left where Hertl and MacKinnon were battling. MacKinnon lost the fight and Hertl was able to bury the rebound that ended up being the game-winning goal.
From that point onward, the Avalanche showed little sign of fightback, except that one moment when Grubauer body checked Joe Thornton along the board, starting a fight. Whose man’s even goes after the other team’s goalie? Damn Baby Boomers.
Grubauer shoves Thornton, who takes a whack at him in response and we have a meeting pic.twitter.com/nfqg44ahBO— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 5, 2019
Barrie had another two great chances in front of the net, but Jones robbed him on the rebound. Beyond that, the Avalanche showed little pushback and went quietly into the night, 2-1 losers.
- Nathan MacKinnon had a tough night not only on the scoresheet (8 shot attempts, 1 on target), but just in terms of finding his groove in the game and showing that ability to take over the ice for moments. We didn’t get to see him at his best and it really hurt the team’s chances.
- He wasn’t the only Av to have a tough night. It’s been five games since Mikko Rantanen last scored at 5v5. All against the Sharks. In each of those five games, he’s averaged four shot attempts, 1.3 shots, and almost three scoring chances per game. He should have a goal, especially in one of the three one-goal games. They need him to get out of his trough immediately, or it’s going to be curtains.
- Fans called Gabriel Landeskog’s play in this game soft, but I didn’t quite see the same picture. Granted, after the first period, he did seem to disappear, but on the whole, he was third in shots, and second in scoring chances. That’s gotta count for something, right? Maybe not, it’s the playoffs.
- Philipp Grubauer has been this team’s playoff MVP and it hasn’t been close. Get this man some run support, please.