The Colorado Avalanche were stunned in Game 3 of their series against the Arizona Coyotes, the little 11th seed that could, when the Coyotes managed to squeak out a 4-2 victory over the heavily favored Colorado roster.
But on Monday afternoon, the Avalanche came back with a vengeance to push the Coyotes to the brink of elimination.
Six different Avalanche skaters — including Nazem Kadri, who lit the lamp twice — were able to beat a combination of Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper, routing Arizona with a 7-1 victory that pushed the series to a 3-1 record in favor of Colorado. It only took a combined 30 shots for Colorado to post their morbidly high score, finally opening the floodgates on the previously-impossible-to-beat Kuemper before making quick work of the back-from-injury Raanta. Add in a lackluster offensive performance for Arizona that saw the Coyotes take just fifteen shots over the entire game, and it was an almost painfully lopsided performance in every possible aspect.
The teams will get a day off before they’re back in action, but Wednesday could be the day that Colorado finally punches their ticket to the next round — meaning they may potentially get plenty of rest before they have to face their next opponent.
Colorado looked like the better team from the get-go, with Matt Nieto getting his first playoff goal just over 14 minutes into the first period on a well-executed cross-ice give-and-go with Matt Calvert:
Oliver Ekman-Larsson let Nieto get below him at the blue line, and a pass up to the California-born winger left Jason Demers faced with a two-on-one by Nieto and Calvert. Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper struggled to get across in time for the pass from Calvert back to Nieto, who was able to tip it in over Kuemper’s left pad to give the Avalanche their first lead of the game.
From there, things would only get better for the Avalanche, while the Coyotes would desperately struggle to even keep their heads above water.
It was 3-0 by the end of the first period, with a pair of goals from Nazem Kadri coming at 16:07 and 19:39 on a pair of power plays. Things didn’t get much better from there for Arizona, either; Joonas Donskoi would manage to get his third goal of the playoffs midway through the second period, and the Coyotes’ lone goal would come while the team still struggled to hit double digits in shots by the end of forty minutes.
The only goal Arizona would manage to net was by defender Jakob Chychrun, who showed rare signs of life for his club while on a power-play thanks to a powerful shot from the point:
Arizona would try to shake things up for the club in the third period by swapping goaltender Darcy Kuemper for his tandem partner Antti Raanta, but the team’s collective poor play in front of him — and Colorado’s relentless offensive pushes — made it hard for the Finnish reliever to get his feet under him after missing the first few weeks of postseason play for an injury.
Overall, Raanta allowed three goals in the final period of play on just seven total shots. But perhaps the most exciting goal he allowed for Avalanche fans was the one by Cale Makar just nineteen seconds into the third period:
In a fantastic solo effort, Makar stripped Arizona of the puck back by Colorado’s own blue line and beat Arizona’s entire on-ice lineup to score on the first shot Raanta faced in the postseason.
Matt Calvert would pick up his own first goal of the postseason just two minutes later, joining Makar and Nieto in earning his first tally of the summer, before Mikko Rantanen managed his own elite goal during a late-period power-play to make the score 7-1. Arizona would make a handful of lackluster efforts to get another point on the board, but ultimately failed to have any meaningful impact when all was said and done and skated away from their second ‘home’ game with one of the postseason’s biggest thrashings so far.
Arizona’s offense has been patchy at best so far, but Philipp Grubauer’s ability to stay focused during a game where his saves were sporadic and unpredictable still deserves a quick round of applause. His lone goal allowed was on a powerful shot from Chychrun, and he failed to let in any ‘sloppy’ goals that could easily come from being forced to stand around for so much of the game.
The real highlight of the game, though, was how well-rounded everyone on Colorado looked — even as Cale Makar had just an ‘okay’ game in terms of flash and pizzaz. The fact that everyone pitched in offensively, defensively, and physically was a sign that the Avalanche are truly working together as the kind of unit that can go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Just take a look at Nathan MacKinnon’s reminder to Arizona’s Christian Fischer not to mess with the Mile High lineup:
It’s hard to get a real read for who on Colorado was at their best, because everyone on Arizona was at their worst. But overall, it’s hard to complain about a performance that picked up such a decisive win for the team — and put them just one more win away from the second round.