On Saturday afternoon, the Colorado Avalanche fell to the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in overtime. With their loss, the Avalanche finished the play-in Round Robin 2-0-1 to clinch the #2 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, which start on Tuesday, August 11th. It was a well-played affair between the two teams battling for the #1 seed.
The Avalanche received goals from Nathan MacKinnon, Joonas Donskoi, and J. T. Compher, while the Vegas Golden Knights saw their own four goals scored by Jonathan Marchessault — who picked up both a regular goal and a penalty shot tally — Nicholas Roy, and Alex Tuch (who scored the OT winner). Philipp Grubauer saved 22 of the 26 shots he faced, while Robin Lehner stopped 32 out of 35.
For notable line changes, Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar swapped Vladislav Namestnikov and Andre Burakovsky within the active lineup, putting Namestnikov on the 1st line and Burakovsky down on the 3rd line. For Peter DeBoer’s squad, forward Max Pacioretty did not dress, for a reason that is unknown at this time.
There was not too much of note that occurred in the first 20 minutes of play. Both teams seemed to be feeling each other out, with few scoring chances to be had on either end. Winger Gabriel Landeskog caught iron with a shot early into the first power-play chance of the game for Colorado, but didn’t get the post luck for a goal. Then, late in the period, Winger Mikko Rantanen also had a great chance 5-on-3 — but his own attempt was robbed by the glove of starting goaltender Robin Lehner, leaving both teams scoreless heading into first intermission.
Despite the cautious play of both teams, Colorado had the edge in shooting (10-5). The special teams for Colorado saw action on both sides of the puck, with the power- play not scoring on either opportunity (0/2) and the penalty kill fighting off a lone Vegas opportunity to remain successful (1/1). The Avalanche would also carry eight seconds of power-play time into the opening frame of the second period.
While they started on the man advantage, it didn’t take long into the second frame for the Avalanche to go on the penalty kill for their second time in the game. Forward Nathan MacKinnon earned an Unsportsmanlike penalty, following his delivery of some choice words for Referee Chris Rooney after an icing call in which MacKinnon thought he had beaten the puck out. This penalty would prove to be costly, as Vegas Forward Jonathan Marchessault would deflect a shot from Defenseman Shea Theodore past Philipp Grubauer.
The guilt wouldn’t last long for MacKinnon, however, as shortly after he would convert on a power-play for Colorado courtesy of a roughing minor for winger Ryan Reaves. Reaves, who has been no stranger to the referee’s whistle during the playoffs, was caught for punching defender Samuel Girard in the back of the head after knocking him down with a hit behind the Vegas net. It was a bit of a broken play for Colorado, as a net front scramble ensued after a Cale Makar point shot went off the crossbar and high up into the air. The puck eventually came down, though, and in the scramble it found its way onto MacKinnon’s stick — who spun around for a backhand shot to beat Lehner.
Later on in the second period, Vegas would find the back of the net following a scramble in the crease of their own. Shea Theodore sent a pass into the slot for the stick for forward Nicholas Roy. Roy opted to skate through the slot looking for an opening, which caused Grubauer to scramble out of his crease. From there, the Vegas forward took the puck behind the net and centered it for none other than Ryan Reaves. His shot didn’t make it through, but the puck bounced around the low slot — and after four Vegas whacks, Roy finally whacked the puck off the post. It then hit the glove of winger Matt Nieto, finally sliding into the back of the net to give Vegas the lead.
Colorado would answer yet again, thanks to a great puck battle by the 3rd line. Wingers Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi fished the puck out from behind a battle along the boards, and Burakovsky sent the puck to forward J. T. Compher — who powered his way across the slot for a shot that Donskoi stuffed home on the rebound.
The flow of the offense definitely opened up for both teams in the second, with both teams picking up two goals apiece. Colorado still held the edge in shots, out-shooting Vegas again in the second period (15-9) to pick up a fairly heavy edge overall (25-14). The special teams saw a lot of time in this period as well, with the Avalanche power-play going one for five and the penalty kill going two for three after 40 minutes.
Vegas would reclaim the lead after Jonathan Marchessault snuck behind the Avs defense for a breakaway, earning a penalty shot when defender Ryan Graves tripped him en route to the net. Marchessault came in slow to the right of Grubauer, before shooting a shot above the glove of the goaltender.
Vegas would hold the lead through the majority of the third period, but the Avs would have an answer at the 18:58 mark. With the goalie pulled, the extra man on the ice, J. T. Compher, would score on a rebound from a Nazem Kadri wrister, continuing the trend of gritty goals the Avs have been scoring for the entirety of the round robin, with the exception of a couple goals. This goal would hold up for the final minute, and the game for the #1 seed would go into overtime.
The two teams broke even in shooting (9-9), and the total shots being (34-23) in favor of Colorado. The Special teams went out one time each in the third, finishing the game going (1/6) on the powerplay, and (3/4) on the penalty kill.
The Avalanche would get only one shot in the overtime frame, while Vegas got three shots.
Late in the overtime frame, Vegas would spring for a 2-on-1 rush, where forward Alex Tuch would carry the puck in, and shoot it. His shot was perfect, beating Grubauer high glove side, clinching the #1 seed for the Golden Knights, and a meeting with the #12 seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Playoffs.
- Despite the loss, the Avalanche were still very dominant offensively, out-shooting the Golden Knights (35-26)
- The Burakovsky-Compher-Donskoi line was very effective, tallying 2 goals and 2 assists in the game
- The Avalanche powerplay went (4/16) across the three Round Robin games, (25%).
- The Avalanche penalty kill went (8/10) across the three Round Robin games, (80%).
- The Avalanche will play the #11 seeded Arizona Coyotes in Round One of the Western Conference Playoffs, with the schedule to be determined.