The Colorado Avalanche overcame a sluggish start and absolutely dominated the Vegas Golden Knights for the majority of the game en route to a 5-1 victory and have now pulled even at 45 points for the West Division lead.
Pregame, the Avalanche organization honored the ten victims of the Monday shooting at the Boulder King Soopers grocery store. Each Avs player donned a jersey with “Boulder Strong” and the number “10” across the back. These jerseys will be signed and auctioned off in the coming week with the proceeds benefiting the Colorado Healing Fund. You can find more information here.
For the third straight game, the Avs came out of the gates sluggish and paid the price almost immediately. Forward Max Pacioretty found a bouncing puck that Cale Makar lost in his skates and the Vegas forward converted on a backhand on the Golden Knight’s first shot of the game.
The Golden Knights had two more opportunities early in the period to add to their lead on a breakaway and a hit post, but the hockey gods were kind to the home squad and it remained a one goal game heading into the intermission.
The Avs had two breakaways of their own in the early going; one from Devon Toews who hit the crossbar flush and PE Bellemare whose shot was saved by Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Avalanche turned up the intensity in the second frame and it was ignited by the second power play unit. After the first unit failed to convert, the second unit cashed in when Joonas Donskoi took a whack at a fluttering puck that absolutely fooled Fleury and found its way into the back of the net.
JT Compher gave the Avalanche their first lead of the night on a backhand from the wing that surprised Fleury.
Perhaps the most beautiful goal and play of the game came from Cale Makar when he was sprung on a breakaway off a pass from Logan O’Connor. Makar muscled his way around Vegas defensemen Nick Holden and tucked the puck between Fleury’s pillows to add to the Colorado lead.
Gabe Landeskog pounded home a rebound to further extend the lead for the home squad.
The third saw more domination from the Avs and they added their final tally of the night when JT Compher hustled down a loose puck in the Vegas zone and fed a beautiful pass to PE Bellemare who tapped home his fourth goal of the season.
Vegas’ almost added a second goal later in the period when Roy put home a goal following a huge dog pile in front of Grubauer. However, the Avalanche challenged the goal for offsides and it was overturned upon review.
The Avs’ have officially caught the Golden Knights in the standings as both teams sit at 45 points apiece atop the Honda West Division. However, Vegas does have a game in hand on the Avs and also holds the tie breaker with 22 wins vs. the Avs’ 21 currently yielding them the top spot. A win (in any fashion) on Saturday and the Avs will leapfrog Vegas for the top spot outright in the division.
Grubauer was spectacular in net again for the Avs as he continues to drum up conversation as a candidate for the Vezina trophy.
The Avs power play continues to struggle despite the second unit converting to give the Avs their first goal off the evening (the team went one for four on the man advantage in the game). The first unit is continuing to be too cute with the puck instead of firing shots on net and looking for rebound opportunities. This needs to get fixed and preferably sooner rather than later.
Bowen Byram was shaken up on a questionable hit from Keegan Kolesar after he Vegas forward left his stakes and threw a check at Byram that made contact with his head and left the rookie defenseman shaken. Byram momentarily left the game following the hit, but he did return to the bench and completed the game. Here’s a video of the hit:
While Byram returned and appears to be okay, the Avs lost Jacob MacDonald in the final frame and it is unclear what lead to his departure — he was hit hard by Ryan Reaves in the corner and was also hit with a shot. Head Coach Jared Bednar did not have any comment on his status following the game.
Jacob MacDonald took a hard hit and is not on Avs bench right now— Lauren Jbara (@laurenjbara) March 26, 2021
Game two of the set with the Golden Knights is scheduled for 1:00 PM MST on Saturday (3/27) and can be found on Altitude TV and ATTSN-RM.